Bipedal rethink: Who said it had to mimic mighty humans?

Bipedal rethink: Who said it had to mimic mighty humans?

A ready to reveal bipedal robot? All eyes usually search for signature signs of merit: moves like a human, bends like a human, climbs like a human, survives tripping like a human, all the challenges for which robotics experts must at least show good attempts.

Writing about robots last year in Popular Science, Levi Sharpe said, "Humans have evolved to walk on two legs, but getting robots there has proven quite challenging so far."

He quoted a researcher at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. There are a lot of challenges with building a that mimics a human's gait, since human walking is essentially controlled falling. There are also limitations to current technology that add a whole other challenge.

Surprise, surprise. Fixing your eyes on this new bipedal, you can forget about comparing it to your favorite smooth-walking neighbor. This bipedal looks nothing like a human but some minutes with it during its debut on stage at a recent event in Japan drew much applause.

The robot may not yet have a name but its impact might be in inspiring robot experts to think about its look and its functioning. The robot teases the question, really, must a bipedal look human?

The robot in question is a two-legged walker designed by Alphabet-owned Schaft Inc.

"The nameless robot strutted onstage at the New Economic Summit in Japan, joining Schaft co-founder Yuto Nakanishi and facing a delighted crowd," reported Devin Coldewey in TechCrunch.

Evan Ackerman in IEEE Spectrum provided some interesting background into Schaft:

"One of the keynote speakers [at the summit] 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."

Coldewey summed up the interesting bits about this robot —namely its walking system. "Rather than imitate a human gait, which is a remarkably complex controlled-falling affair, these robots have rigid legs that slide up and down like rails. This allows them to lift without bending, while joints at the top allow them to be canted in or out and 'ankles' at the bottom provide stability on uneven terrain. Batteries and motors are suspended between the legs, creating a naturally low center of gravity."

Nakanishi showed a video of the robot walking indoors, climbing up steps and going down steps outdoors.

The robot even succeeded in a big stadium environment to step sideways to leave the aisle and take to the steps. It also can survive a pipe as an obstacle deliberately shoved in its path. It maneuvered rough terrain including pebbles on a beach and snow.

So what's next? X, Alphabet's experimental technology lab, apparently has that information. According to Ackerman in IEEE Spectrum: "An X spokesperson says the SCHAFT presentation 'wasn't a product announcement or indication of a specific product roadmap. The team was simply delighted to have a chance to show their latest progress.'"

Explore further

SCHAFT team tops scores at DARPA Robotics Challenge

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Apr 10, 2016
It's emulating knuckle walking. Monkey stuff.

Still uses 2-4x as much energy as human gait.

Apr 10, 2016
Eikka, you just made up everything you just said, and none of it is even important

Apr 10, 2016
"Eikka, you just made up everything you just said, and none of it is even important"

"The study, which used treadmills, shows that people walking on two legs use 25% of the energy used by chimps who "knuckle walk" on all fours."

The relevance is, that the machine is lifting parts up and down somewhat similiar to how a knuckle-walker does - the basic geometry is like a chimp with its legs amputated, and they do sometimes ambulate without touching their legs on the ground just on their arms.

The human bipedal gait is optimized to maintain minimum up/down motion and holding static forces with muscles, which saves energy. Minimize the unnecessary work against gravity and you minimize energy use. That's why the robots would do better to "mimic mighty humans" - it would make their batteries last up to four times longer.

Apr 11, 2016
My last payment was $8474 working 11 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 16k for months now and she works about 19 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do…VB01

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Apr 11, 2016
If nature has taught us anything, is that it knows how to be efficient. The only thing we ever did better than nature is to make roads and roll on wheels. The Point being, is that studies have shown that the human method of locomotion is highly efficient, and has been one of the contributing factors in our dominance of the planet.

I think where robots are falling short, is with the foot. Every Robot I have seen has this chunk of material for a foot with seemingly little engineering behind it. Make advanced Robot Feet, and you will most likely have a better bipedal robot.

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