26 November 2020

    James Francis

    Legged robots are here! Seven cool walking robots that work

    Is it time to welcome our new two- and four-legged robot servants?

    The robots aren't still coming - they are already here! There are many different commercial robots in the market, from toys to vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers. But these are often on wheels, limiting where they can go and what they can do for us. Many also don't work by themselves and need a human to control them.

    But not the robots in this article. They work by themselves, and walk on two or four legs. We rounded up five of the coolest four-legged robots and two amazing bi-legged robots. Though you'll not see these guys in your home any time soon, they are already making a splash at factories, warehouses, power plants and even for militaries.

    Spot (Boston Dynamics)

    Boston Dynamics is the company that started all this excitement over advanced robots. After many years of development, it finally released a commercial robot. Spot is named similar to a dog because it has the 'dog' robot design that has surfaced over the years. The robot trots around on four legs, can carry up to 14 kilograms of equipment, walk around difficult terrain, and do a lot of different tasks. It can inspect equipment in factories, patrol around areas - even perform with Cirque Du Soleil (though none of the crazy acrobatic stuff). Like all the robots here, you can control it or Spot will do its own thing. But it'll cost you for the privilege - Spot starts at US$75,000.

    A1 (Unitree Robotics)

    Take Spot, but aim to make the robot much cheaper. How cheap? Unitree Robotics' A1 robot could one day sell for as little as US$10,000. Also a four-legged robot, it's not quite as advanced as Spot, but still offers a lot. It can run up to 10km/h (the fastest out of all the robots here) and has a human follow mode. It can join you in jogging! A1 uses artificial intelligence to map areas - it can also inspect factories or walk over difficult terrain to do something. A1 is almost a lite version of Spot, though it's not a commercial product yet.

    Vision 60 (Ghost Robotics)

    You or I can't buy certain robots, but they are already in use elsewhere. Ghost Robotics' Vision 60 robot could do work in factories or other areas of civilian life. But it's getting a lot of attention from militaries, particularly those of the United States and Australia. Vision 60 robots aren't armed - they are being used to do recon for soldiers or carry equipment. The marketing material calls Vision 60 "unstoppable," and it likely is the toughest of the robots on this list. Ghost Robotics won't say how much one robot costs, but it is rumoured to be much cheaper because of how they use 3D printing.

    ANYmal C (ANYbotics)

    Several of the robots here are commercially available. But few feel as ready and suited for the real world as ANYbotcs' ANYmal C. This cute-looking red robot is quite the worker - doing many of the tasks that the robots mentioned above do as well. Very tough and waterproof, ANYmal C handles all types of conditions (as long as they are on land, of course), and is pretty good at navigating unknown terrain in real-time. It docks itself to charge batteries, and it can carry up to 10 kilograms. No price is available, but ANYmal C is estimated to be between US$20,000 and US$50,000.

    Jue Ying (DeepRobotics)

    There is very little information about Jue Ying, DeepRobotics' four-legged robot. It appears to do many of the tasks that other robots here do, and might be a very agile robot. Walking at 6km/h - not a bad speed for these machines - it claims to carry up to 20kg. But not a lot has been shown or verified about Jue Ying.

    Digit (Agility Robotics)

    Atlas might not be on its way to you soon, but Digit just might. While most of the robots here operate in places humans can't or don't like going, Digit works with and among humans. It can carry boxes to deliver packages - recently it was part of a test where a self-driving car delivered a package, and a Digit robot literally walked it to the door. One day Digit might bring your coffee from the office kitchen. But at prices Agility Robots call "low six digits," this is not a cheap investment.

    Atlas (Boston Dynamics)

    Not all robots are four-legged. The holy grail of a science fiction-worthy robot is walking on two legs. That has always been the goal - two-legged robots began life before the four-legged type was invented. The modern robotic OG is Atlas, Boston Dynamics' two-legged robot that can walk, run, climb stairs and carry packages. Just watching Atlas in action on videos is an experience. Alas, Atlas doesn't look like it will ever be a commercial product. It exists to push the boundaries of robotics technologies. But modern robots owe their existence to what Atlas taught engineers and designers.

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    James Francis