When our robot overlords come to power, they may not look exactly how you imagined.
If Festo has its way, they could look more like unstoppable hopping kangaroos rather than Terminator-style machines.
For the past two years, the German group has been secretly working emulating the jumping behaviour of the kangaroo in robot form.
It’s one of their most ambitious bio-inspired robots yet and could help improve industrial automation systems that manufacture products such as cars and computers.
Dubbed Bionic Kangaroo, the robot is controlled by gestures and can efficiently recover energy from one jump to help it make the next.
It does this by using an elastic spring, which partially ‘charges’ the legs on landing, according to a report by Evan Ackerman in IEEE Spectrum.
This is similar to the technique used by kangaroos who use their tendons like elastic springs to bound from one area to another.
As well as the elastic spring, the company’s Bionic Learning Network also installed a small storage tank to provide high pressure air for the pneumatic muscles to power the movement of the robot.
‘With the Bionic Kangaroo we have precisely reproduced the most characteristic features of natural kangaroos: recuperating and storing energy, and then releasing it once more in the next bound,’ Festo’s Dr Heinrich Frontzek said.
The entire robotic animal weighs just 15 lb (7kg) and stands 3ft 3inches (1m), but it can jump 1ft 3inches (40cm) vertically and 2ft 7 inch (0.8 metres) horizontally.
Before the initial jump, the elastic tendon is pneumatically pre-tensioned and the Bionic Kangaroo shifts its centre of gravity forwards.
When a certain angle is reached, the pneumatic cylinders are activated and the energy from the tendon is released.
This causes the kangaroo to take off and as it does, it pulls its legs forward creating torque at the hip.
During landing, the tendon is tensed again to convert the kinetic energy of the previous jump to potential energy for the next jump.
Festo said that it has no plans to release robotic kangaroos, but hopes its latest creation will help demonstrate how energy from movement can be recovered more effectively.