The prospect of a bouncing robotic kangaroo may seem crazy, but German-based engineering company Festo discovered that basing robot motion on the kangaroo’s hop is incredibly energy efficient. Known for other successful biomimetic creations such as flying seagulls and wind turbines that absorb energy like flapping bird wings, the company’s Bionic Kangaroo will be hopping onto the stage to make its debut at the Hannover Messe from April 7, 2014.
A team from Festo’s Bionic Learning Network have been learning from jumping kangaroos for the last two years. They were interested in how the kangaroo’s legs use the energy after landing from one hop for the next jump. Festo explains, “An important function is assumed here by the Achilles tendon, which for this reason is highly developed in the natural kangaroo. In the artificial kangaroo, we realised the function of the natural Achilles tendon by means of an elastic spring element made of rubber.”
Precise control technology ensures the ‘roo-bot’ doesn’t fall over when jumping and landing, which could allow the robot to progress on terrain that others find difficult. Sadly, we’re unlikely to see a mob of bionic kangaroos set loose in the northern hemisphere, but Festo’s prototype is a way of investigating the intelligent recovery of energy in industrial automation, and combining electronics with pneumatics in new ways.
The kangaroo is built with a technology similar to 3D printing with laser-sintered components reinforced with carbon. As a result, the one meter tall robotic creature weighs only seven kilograms including battery. It can jump an impressive 40 cm from the ground covering up to 80 cm. And to add to its spookily life-like characteristics, the Bionic Kangaroo is controlled by human gestures.
Images via Festo