WTF?! Four-legged robots just got far more capable (and a lot creepier). Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) along with a colleague at the University of Illinois have developed a quadruped bot with magnetic feet that can climb and traverse metallic walls and ceilings.
The team designed the robot, named Marvel, to assist humans in performing dangerous maintenance jobs on large metal structures like oil tanks, bridges and water towers. It uses a combination of magnetic elastomers and electromagnets to magnetize and demagnetize on demand as needed, allowing the bot's feet to stay stuck to a surface then release as it takes a step.
Mimicking how a cat tests a surface before hopping on, the bot is programmed to use its front legs to test the stability of a surface before fully committing to it.
In the lab, Marvel was able to step over 10 centimeter wide gaps and clear five centimeter tall obstacles as well as transition from horizontal grounds to vertical walls and go from vertical walls to inverted ceilings. It can also carry payloads of up to three kilograms, or around 6.6 pounds.
During real world testing, Marvel was able to climb a curved storage tank covered in rust and dust at a speed of 0.35 meters per second without issue. Using its pace gait, the bot can hit up to 0.7 meters per second. It was even able to navigate around obstacles on the side of the tank with ease.
The team's paper on the subject, Agile and versatile climbing on ferromagnetic surfaces with a quadrupedal robot, has been published in the journal Science Robotics.
In related news, New Scientist recently profiled a robotic bird that uses talon-like claws to land on a perch. It has a wingspan of 1.5 meters and weighs 700 grams, and could one day be used to collect samples in hard-to-reach areas or study wildlife in their natural habitat.
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