Friday, 4 April 2014

Mechanical monster macropod LEAPS out of the lab

If you want evidence for the sad state of science in Australia, here it is: the world's first bionic kangaroo has been developed in Germany.

Tool-maker turned industrial automation specialist Festo is responsible for the two-year project that's given the world the robot 'roo.





Not only has the mechanical macropod a movement modelled on Australia's iconic critter, it also imitates the kangaroo's approach to energy-efficiency by storing the energy acquired when it lands, and using it for the next hop.

The locomotion uses an elastic Achilles tendon designed to mimic the anatomy of a real 'roo. To jump, the tendon is pre-tensioned and released, with power coming from a combination of electric dives and compressed air. What the company is pleased about, though, is what the recovery of kinetic energy upon landing, in that Achilles tendon: this reduces the amount of energy needed for the next jump, or allows the robot to accelerate without expending too much extra energy.

At rest, the robot has three points of contact with the ground – two feet and a tail – which fastly simplifies the control needed for balance.

Vulture South notes that there's another advantage to a roo-shaped (to quibble, the Festo creation looks more wallaby-shaped to us) design: the, ahem, rear-heavy shape provides a handy place in which to pack the necessary kit.

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