Bipedal Robot Gets Around With Jet-Powered Feet

Friday, 23 March 2018 - 6:40PM
Technology
Robotics
Friday, 23 March 2018 - 6:40PM
Bipedal Robot Gets Around With Jet-Powered Feet
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YouTube/IEEE Spectrum
"Walking" is one of those things we just take for granted after our first year or two, but replicating that in machines can be difficult. There's a reason lots of robots move around on wheels

But robots that walk around with two legs are possible, and can find creative ways to do it. In fact, a new robot named Jet-HR1 from Guangdong University of Technology's School of Automation in China is only a pair of legs, and it walks from place to place using jet engines. 

See it in action below:



As you can see, the robot has a pair of ducted fans that form the basis of the jet engines attached to its feet, which allow it to move precisely and shift its center of gravity while crossing gaps. The fans come in especially handy since they can balance a foot as Jet-HR1 moves it through the air, performing the same process again once the first foot is safely on the other side of the gap.

This way, it doesn't fall over like other bipedal robots like the terminally tripping machines over at Boston Dynamics (although they're improving). In a way, it seems like a simpler solution than the hydraulic power used by Boston Dynamics, although those robots are capable of some more advanced movements and even backflips.

And beyond just the engines, Jet-HR1 is pretty nimble, able to stretch its legs out to 1.47 feet (45 centimeters) at 97 percent of its length. It's learning quickly, since in previous experiments, it could only cross a gap that's 20 percent of its full length.



According to associate professor Zhifeng Huang from Guangdong University of Technology, who said the following to Digital Trends:

Opening quote
"The development of the electric motor and jet technologies contributed to the feasibility of the idea. High thrust-to-weight ratio is one of the key points. In this research, we [worked] hard on the action planning, including the optimal posture and the thrust planning. In addition, the mechanical design was also important. To maintain the robot's balance during the step over the gap, it is important to calculate the movement of the center of mass (CoM) and then carefully plan the thrust."
Closing quote


In other words, walking comes a lot less naturally to robots than it does to infants, so watching one take its first steps - even if it's literally just legs - is an accomplishment.
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