April 3, 2014
Festo Unleashes Its Bionic Kangaroo
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Kangaroos seem to be really in vogue these days. Australian actress Rebel Wilson is now the voice of Hopper the Kangaroo for Dish Networks. Wilson appears as the animated Hopper in the first commercial as she tries to secretly watch TV on her tablet while at work.
Now researchers at Festo have devised a different type of animated marsupial that is ready to hop to it. The BionicKangaroo, which is the automation technology company’s latest robotic design and is part of its “Bionic Learning Network,” is capable of technologically reproducing the unique way a kangaroo moves.
“Like its natural model, it can recover the energy when jumping, store it and efficiently use it for the next jump,” the company noted in a statement. This artificial version of the animal that is endemic to Australia and is the unofficial symbol of the Land Down Under is able to intelligently combine pneumatic and electrical drive technology, which produces a highly dynamic system.
“The stable jump kinematics plus the precise control technology ensure stability when jumping and landing,” the company noted. “The consistent lightweight construction facilitates the unique jumping behaviour. The system is controlled by gestures.”
To develop the BionicKangaroo, Festo closely considered the mobile energy supply on the artificial kangaroo, and the researchers even developed two different concepts. The first utilized an integrated compressor while another was based on a mobile high-pressure storage device.
All this allows the BionicKangaroo to realistically emulate the jumping behavior of real marsupials.
This bionic hopper was reportedly developed in secret in Festo’s “German laboratory lair,” IEEE Spectrum reported.
As this is a fully robotic creature, it features an internal power source. The BionicKangaroo also relies on a small compressor or a storage tank, which provides the high pressure air for the pneumatic muscles that power the jumping. In addition, lightweight internal batteries drive the creature, while a sophisticated kinematic control system is able to keep the BionicKangaroo from falling over, reports IEEE Spectrum's Evan Ackerman.
The robot is also able to absorb the force of the landing while springing into its next jump.
The robot doesn’t actually make the motion on its own, but is rather controlled remotely by a Thalmic Labs Myo armband, but it could easily be controlled by a computer or even voice commands reported Design&Trend.
DeisgnTrend.com also noted that “the motion of the robot is still rather jittery and obviously cannot move anywhere near as fast as a wild kangaroo, but history has shown that where there is a seed, there is also growth.”
The site also took notice that, due to its smaller size, this robot is actually more accurately a “wallaby” due to its size. “Both wallabies and kangaroos are from the same family but most folks interested in the bot rather refer to it as a wallaby. BionicWallaby-how does that sound?” write Design&Trend's Osvaldo Nunez.
Either way this is just the latest of many bionic creatures that are taking notice.
In 2013 a team of MIT mechanical engineers, led by Sangbae Kim, developed a 70-pound robotic cheetah, while the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) developed a walking and balancing robotic gorilla.
Perhaps a robot zoo isn’t too far off in the future.