Looking a little like an under-dressed R2-D2, the bipedal robot was unveiled by Schaft - owned by Google's parent company Alphabet - at the recent New Economic Summit in Tokyo. Alphabet-owned Japanese robotics firm Schaft unveiled its new two-legged robot in Tokyo on Friday. A video at the conference demonstrated the robot's capabilities (still pictured) Mimicking the complex movements involved in human motion has long-been a challenge for bipedal robotics experts, owing to the countless minor adjustments we make as we walk. The robot can also be seen ascending and descending sets of stairs without assistance. The bipedal prototype (pictured) can reportedly carry 60kg (132 lb) of weight, and is'aimed at helping society by helping to carry heavy loads The unnamed robot can self-stabilise on uneven surfaces, as demonstrated by stepping on a pole in a video.
In a long-awaited transaction, The New York Times Dealbook announced that SoftBank was buying Boston Dynamics from Alphabet (Google). Also included in the deal is the Japanese startup Schaft. Acquisition details were not disclosed. Both Boston Dynamics and Schaft were acquired by Google when Andy Rubin was developing Google's robot group through a series of acquisitions. Both companies have continued to develop innovative mobile robots.
Google's Alphabet has a new walking robot that wouldn't look out of place in Interstellar or science-fiction homes of the future. The reportedly as-yet-unnamed robot was shown off at the New Economic Summit in Tokyo by Alphabet-owned Japanese robotics company Schaft. It has a very different design to Alphabet's other robots made by Boston Dynamics, with a compact two-leg design and central body that can be moved up or down to cope with different tasks. Unlike Alphabet's larger bipedal robots designed either to interact in a human-like fashion with the world - the humanoid Atlas - or to be a robotic packhorse for the US military or dog's plaything, the Schaft robot is designed to be lower cost, lower power and be used by civilians, carrying up to 60kg over uneven terrain and stairs. The robot was demonstrated dealing with unsure footing, compensating for standing on a moving pipe in one instance and walking on shingle in another.
Right now, the New Economic Summit (NEST) 2016 conference is going on in Tokyo, Japan. One of the keynote speakers is Andy Rubin. Rubin was in charge of Google's robotics program in 2013, when the company (now Alphabet) acquired a fistful of some of the most capable and interesting robotics companies in the world. One of those companies was SCHAFT, which originated at the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo and is best known for winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials by an absurd amount. We haven't heard anything from SCHAFT over the past three years, and all we know is that they're now part of X, Alphabet's experimental technology lab.
Google parent Alphabet is shutting down its SCHAFT robotics unit after failing to find a buyer. Home to the company's giant bipedal bots designed to act as first responders in emergencies, the secretive division was supposed to go to Softbank as part of its Boston Dynamics buyout (another Google robotics venture). But that deal apparently broke down because "one or more [SCHAFT] employees" refused to join its new Japanese owner, reports Nikkei. As a result, Google says it was left with no option but to close its doors. It confirmed to TechCrunch that it's helping employees find new roles, most of which will be outside of Google and Alphabet.