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.
These strange-looking, two-legged robots might be the predecessor of a machine that someday helps with chores around the home. The bipedal bot, which has yet to be named, was developed by Schaft, a Japanese robotics company that is part of X, the research lab owned by Alphabet (previously Google). It was revealed at an event in Japan hosted by Andy Rubin, who started Google's robotics project before leaving the company at the end of 2014 to create his own hardware incubator. A video shot by someone at the event shows the robot carrying a heavy-looking gym weight, slipping on a tube without falling over, and cleaning a set of stairs with a vacuum cleaner brush attachment on its feet. It can also be seen walking through a forest and along a rocky beach.
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.
Today, Agility Robotics is announcing US $8 million in Series A funding "to accelerate product, technology, and business development." Leading the round is Playground Global, founded by Android co-creator and ex-Google Robotics head Andy Rubin, and also joining in is Sony Innovation Fund. We don't write about funding rounds all that often, but this could be the first robotics company to get such a significant amount of VC funding to develop a realistic commercial bipedal robot. There are certainly other well-funded companies working on bipeds, including Boston Dynamics and Schaft. But while it's not that clear what commercial applications these companies are targeting, Agility Robotics is very specifically and deliberately working on a legged robot that can make deliveries.
Google recently put up its Boston Dynamics robotics unit up for sale, but that doesn't mean that the company is getting out of the automaton business. A new bipedal robot from Google's Schaft robotics was shown off on Friday at the New Economic Summit conference in Tokyo, Japan on Friday. The small robot is shown walking in a number of situations that can be challenging even for humans, including a sandy beach, a rocky terrain, snow, and a steep, narrow staircase. At one point during the demonstration video (top of page), we even see how the robot handles random, rolling obstacles thrown under its "feet." Spoiler: It handles the surprise instability better than many humans might.