While companies around the world (but mainly in Japan) have made massive leaps in robotics over the past few years, there has always been something unnatural about the way they walk. Too jerky, too stiff – too robotic. Even Honda’s ASIMO suffers from this. However the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan looks like they will change this standard with their BlueBiped – a pair of mechanical legs that not only walk like a human, but are powered by their own weight!
Amazingly, BlueBiped contains no motors or hydraulics and isn’t remote controlled. Instead, the robotic limbs work with a simple push and continue walking by themselves. Made from aluminium, the thighs and lower legs are the same shape and length as a humans and also contain ‘knee’ and ‘ankle’ joints for realistic movement. Once in motion, the engineers designed the legs to be powered by gravity, which means as long as there is a downwards slope, they’ll continue walking.
The Japanese engineers used the “principle of falling” when designing BlueBiped. It works on the same basis as human movement in that we walk by ‘falling forward’. In the same way, if the robot’s weight is angle forward, it provides enough momentum for movement. That ‘step’ keeps it enough momentum to ‘fall’ again and the legs just keep on walking.
Sure, you’re thinking – that’s cool, but what about steps, slopes or even flat surfaces? Well, the designers hope that motors will enable BlueBiped to tackle all those challenges, but then that makes it just another robot instead of a zero-energy walking pendulum.
So far, tests have seen BlueBiped walk for 13 hours continuously. That is an astonishing 100,000 consecutive steps or 9 miles (15km) without any source of power or human intervention. While we’re not yet sure of the practical applications, the engineers say they have tested a modified version that can be worn like an exoskeleton, which could help people walk.
Via Extreme Tech