HyQReal may not be the first quadruped robot mule, as Boston Dynamics takes the crown for that, but this new creation is definitely no slouch. Created by resarchers at the Instituto Itaiana di Tecnologia (IIT), it can easily pull a 3-ton place across a runway at the Geneva Airport. This bot weighs just over 280-pounds, is apporximately 4-feet long, and sports ‘custom-made’ feet with special rubber grips attached for maximum traction on flat ground. “Pulling a plane allowed us to demonstrate the robot’s strength, power-autonomy and the optimized design. We wanted to achieve something that has never been done before, and we succeeded last week,” said Claudio Semini, project leader at IIT’s Dynamic Legged Systems Lab. Read more for a video and additional information.
Ford partnered with Agility Robotics to create Digit, an autonomous robot that walks upright on two legs, can scale stairs and also carry packages weighing up to 40 pounds. It’s tackling Ford’s biggest issue with self-driving vehicles, autonomously delivering for companies like Domino’s Pizza, Postmates, Uber Eats, etc. directly to the front door. “As we’ve learned in our pilot programs, it’s not always convenient for people to leave their homes for packages or for businesses to run their own delivery services,” said Ken Washington, Ford’s chief technology officer. Read more for a video and additional information.
An open source dog-like robot can be spotted walking around Stanford University. Doggo is the creation of the school’s Student Robotics Club’s Extreme Mobility team, and this four-legged robot is not only capable of performing acrobatic tricks and traversing challenging terrain, but is also designed with reproducibility in mind. The students estimate that the entire project cost no more than $3,000. “When we first put the full robot on the ground, it kind of looked like a toddler who really didn’t know how to walk at all, but I was moving and we were really excited,” said Stanford student Nathan Kau. Read more for a video and additional information.
NASA has just completed its first hardware test for Bumble, one of three Astrobee robots designed to research automated caretaking aboard the International Space Station. It arrived on April 17th, and will perform automated tasks in the spring, including recharging at its docking station, Kibo. Read more for a video and additional information.
Purdue University researchers have built a bio-inspired hummingbird robot that was trained by artificial intelligence and weighs in at just 12 grams, while utilizing unsteady aerodynamics to hover, just like its real-life counterpart. Called the “Purdue Hummingbird,” this tiny flapping-wing robot has a pair of 30-40Hz flapping wings driven by only two actuators. By interpreting the wing loading feedback and its variations, it can detect the presence of environmental obstacles (walls, wind, stairs, etc.). For added flight stability, a robust controller was custom-designed for handling unforeseen disturbances during the flight. Read more for a video and additional information.
Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) researchers in Florida recently conducted a test with the 165-pound humanoid robot, known as “Atlas”, where it was tasked to walk across narrow terrain by using human-like control, perception and planning algorithms. It managed to walk across a balance beam using body control created using LIDAR, which pulsed a laser beam to measure the distance between objects. All of this data was then processed by the machine so it can step correctly on the narrow terrain. Read more for a selection of fascinating images from around the web.
NASA researchers are currently experimenting with soft robotics that could one day help explore other worlds. These have a large advantage over their metal counterparts because they’re very flexible and much better in adapting to new environments, all the while offering a range of motion similar to living organisms, thus making it easier to manipulate in tight spots. “When you actuate the soft robot, it changes how you use the material properties. A piece of rubber going from flat to the shape of a finger, it changes the material into something else,” said NASA intern Jack Fitzpatrick. Read more for another video and additional information.
Hate folding laundry and don’t mind spending on a robot? Then FoldiMate is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. First introduced in 2016, this device is almost ready for production, as the latest prototype has been further advanced from its previous model, and now automatically adapts to the clothing item type and size. It can now fold a full load of laundry (around 25 items) in 5 minutes. When launched, it’s expected to retail for around $980, or less than many washing / drying machines. Read more for a video and additional information.
What better way to show off your new robot than by using them to haul a giant truck? That’s exactly what Boston Dynamics did to showcase their Spotpower robotic dog. Based on the SpotMini, this 66-pound robot can perform a variety of tasks, like climbing stairs, traversing rugged terrain and transporting up to 31 pounds. Best of all, the video announced that the SpotPower model will be available to the public for a “range of applications soon.” Read more for another video comparing the SpotMini to a competitor.
Walmart announced today that they are planning to add thousands of autonomous robot workers to tackle a variety of tasks within its stores following several tests in 2018. The goal is to give employees “more of an opportunity to do what they’re uniquely qualified for,” like helping customers face-to-face on the sales floor. “Smart assistants have huge potential to make busy stores run more smoothly,” said a Walmart representative. Read more for two videos and additional information.