New version of RHex is worlds first parkour robot

first_imgThe title calls it a Parkour robot, but the latest video showing off University of Pennsylvania and Boston Dynamics’ RHex has more in common with an artsy skateboarding video.Like a cinematographer setting up lavish shots of a rail grind or air trick, director Kurtis Sensenig puts the emphasis more on the visual splendor of the RHex style of movement than on its practical abilities. When the robot flips up in slow motion to grab the edge of a high wall, the video cuts away before the machine can hoist itself up to the top, as we know it can.Slow motion closeups focus on the elegance of the RHex unit as it sails through the air with its legs pulled back like a human diver. Set against trippy trance music, this video makes it easy to forget that RHex was born primarily to work toward military contracts.RHex is primarily an all-terrain robot solution. BigDog and its contemporaries are impressive enough, but their delicate stepping can be foiled by water, large obstacles, or uneven terrain. Not RHex. With a simple yet versatile mode of travel, the robot can step, jump, or climb over just about anything before it. The unit can be made to be totally amphibious, swimming while completely submerged and still ready for anything once it hits the shore.Readings from each leg are used to change movement strategy on the fly.This particular version focuses on keeping the now decade-old design simple and light — hence the parkour title. The free running aspects of its locomotion come much more easily thanks to a lower overall weight. RHex can now launch itself over gaps that are larger than the robot itself, and the carbon fiber shell can withstand the punishment of falling from even great heights.Perhaps the most impressive aspect of RHex at this point is how it can adjust its movement based on the situation. Force sensors let feedback from the legs dictate the specifics of motion — running on concrete is best achieved with forceful footfalls, but moving over pebbles or grass requires a softer approach. By adjusting the basic style of movement to everything from the contours to the materials of the ground, it can attack all-terrain problems like no other robot before it.last_img

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