March 15, 2022 report
Bex: A walking, rolling quadruped robot that can carry a person around
Officials and engineers at Kawasaki have unveiled Bex, a quadruped robot that can walk, roll around and even carry a human passenger on its back—at this year's 2022 International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo. At the exhibition, Bex was configured to look like an Ibex, a type of wild goat, which is where it gets its name.
Bex was created as part of an effort at Kawasaki the company calls a "robust humanoid platform" with a project called Kaleido. Most such efforts from the project have involved robots that are halfway between human-like robots and wheeled bots. Bex appears to be an aberration—it is a quadruped with wheels on its knees. The robot can walk around, similar in many respects to a quadruped from Boston Dynamics, though much slower. But it also squats down to its knees, locks its joints and fires up a motor that drives the robot around like a car. Bex can also carry cargo (up to 100 kilograms) such as crops or humans. At the exhibition, Bex was mounted by an engineer and ridden in circles like a pony. The team at Kawasaki has also made the robot a little glitzier than many of its competitors—it has flashing lights that run up and down its neck and antlers.
Officials with Kawasaki noted at the show that the robot's head can be replaced with other suitable alternatives such as a horse's head or even nothing at all. They also noted that Bex has been engineered to move quickly in its wheeled configuration and that the walking configuration is to deal with uneven terrain. Also, the team put stability at the forefront. When the robot is rolling, all of its wheels are always on the ground, and when it is walking, its gait keeps at least two feet on the ground. This reduced computation requirements and made the robot safer to use around humans.
What is not clear is if the robot was merely a demonstration or if Kawasaki plans to sell it to customers, and if so, how much it might cost.
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