What you see is a tiny, mechanical ostrich chasing after a car.
This clever two-legged robot, known as Planar Elliptical Runner, was developed at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Florida. Unlike other robots, it doesn’t have sensors or an on-board computer. Instead, the mechanical design offers the base to a dynamic stability as the robot run.
A video demoing the development, shows the two-legged robot in a number of situations, including on a treadmill and even running behind as well as alongside a car.
Ostrich-inspired Bipedal Robot Built for Planetary Exploration
The robot is supported between two plates of glass, which explains the “planar” part in its title. The two plates of glass serve as a platform for the robot to run on the straight and narrow pathway. The robot can fall over backwards or forwards, however, the motion of its leg movements keep this from happening.
Researchers are hoping that the idea of balancing a bidepidal robot using mechanics can help make two-legged robots look more natural-looking. As of now, the team is trying to apply the same concept to 3D running, allowing the robot to move in other directions too. In the future, the legs could replace wheels for certain situations.
The dog-sized robot can run up to 12 mph. IHMC researchers say a robot scaled up to human size could run at 20 mph or 30 mph.
Typically, with bipedal robots, it’s harder to balance. Moreover, such bots are more power-hungry and expensive, however, they can dynamically balance. For example, such bots require plenty of processing power to run the balancing algorithms, sensors and gyroscopes necessary to keep it on its feet. The Planar Elliptical Runner has more of an elegant design, with a single motor that drives that legs forward in an elliptical motion. The body shape adds to the balance, while the legs have reactive resilience. When the bots’ legs feel resistance, its adds more power to push forwards, while the rear leg is mechanically adjusted to stabilize its sprint.
Two-legged Robots Are Learning To Balance!
For now, the biggest advantage of the biped robot is that it can get to places other robots can’t. Biped robots are particularly useful in getting to places where you require human presence, however, it’s too dangerous and expensive to sell a real human.
Alphabet, Inc. owned Boston Dynamics is a prominent robot maker. So far, it has showed off two- and four-legged bots carrying cargo around warehouses and delivering packages on doorsteps. There is a small but growing interest in developing machines that can balance themselves while running through difficult terrain, however, they’re power-hungry and expensive.