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Saturday, October 16, 2021
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    Video Shows Off How New Robot Can Skateboard, Slackline And Fly

    Aerospace Robotics and Control at Caltech/YouTube

    A new bipedal robot has been revealed in a video showing off its ability to skateboard, slackline and even fly. 

    For someone who knows very little about robots, I may not understand the technicalities and science behind such genius, but one thing I can appreciate is just how cool this particular robot’s skills are.

    Having grown up religiously watching the 2003 CBeebies series Little Robots, my mind has well and truly been blown by this new bipedal robot with propellers for arms, named LEONARDO.

    The name of the new robot stands for ‘LEgs ONboARD drOne’, The Verge reports.

    LEONARDO was made by Caltech’s Aerospace Robotics and Control Lab; an earlier version of the bot was made in 2019, titled ‘LEg ON Aerial Robotic DrOne’.

    However, in its latest upgrade, the 2021 LEONARDO has been re-built completely from scratch. Its legs weigh less, the number of it’s propellers has doubled, and its newest design features battery and electronics integrated within, Caltech’s Professor Soon-Jo Chung told Spectrum.

    The best feature of LEONARDO is that he can both walk and fly.

    Chung said:

    Creatures that have more than two locomotion modes must learn and master how to properly switch between them. Birds, for instance, undergo a complex yet intriguing behaviour at the transitional interface of their two locomotion modes of flying and walking.

    Similarly, the Leonardo robot uses synchronized control of distributed propeller-based thrusters and leg joints to realize smooth transitions between its flying and walking modes.

    LEONARDO weighs 2.5 kg (5.5lbs), is 75cm (2.5ft) tall and can fly up to 3m/s. The bot can not only fly and walk however, but hop, skateboard and even walk on a slackline, as difficult bipedal movements are stabilised by LEONARDO’s propellers.

    When the robot flies, 445 watts are needed to fuel the propellers and 99 watts are consumed by its legs and electronics, totalling 544 watts. However, when LEONARDO flies, its power consumption nearly doubles, which means he is not very efficient.

    This low efficiency in battery life could cause issues for LEONARDO in the long term, as means that it can only last for three-and-a-half minutes of walking or 100 seconds of flying.

    However, LEONARDO’s efficiency was not the initial priority of the update, according to Chung, and the battery life of the bot could be more equally balanced if the propellers are used less.

    He noted that achieving ‘efficient walking with lightweight legs similar to LEO’s is still an open challenge in the field of bipedal robots, and it remains to be investigated in future work’.

    It is hoped that the robot will be able to contribute usefully to the world around it, with plans for ‘robot autonomy and manipulation capabilities’, which would come with updates on vision and machine learning, rather than LEO just following predetermined routes.

    In the future, robots like LEO could be used for ‘physical interactions with structures at a high altitude, which are usually dangerous for human workers and could use robotic workers’, such as ‘high voltage line inspection or monitoring of tall bridges’.

    Chung joked that the ‘ultimate form of demonstration’ will be if the team can create two LEO bots and design them to ‘play tennis or badminton’.

     

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