As if drones flying around with arms that can grab things isn’t weird enough, researchers from Japan have come up with an ‘aerial biped’ that gets around by flying and walking at the same time.
Getting robots to walk like humans is not an easy thing to do – let’s face it, it’s not even easy for humans to master.
There has been some work done by researchers towards making this task easier for robots, such as the Magdan created by Tomotaka Takahashi which uses electromagnets in its feet to walk upright on metal.
This has inherent problems though – metal footpaths are not exactly in proliferation.
Another is BALLU, an odd, leggy looking unit that uses a helium filled balloon to assist it in its mobility endeavours (it’s a good watch).
These robots inspired Azumi Maekawa, Ryuma Niiyama, and Shunji Yamanaka from the University of Tokyo to create their bipedal robot, giving the term ‘airhead’ another whole new meaning.
But what’s the point? If a robot can get around with a quadcopter for a head, why the need for legs?
Speaking with IEEE, Maekawa explains:
The goal is to develop a robot that has the ability to display the appearance of bipedal walking with dynamic mobility, and to provide a new visual experience. The robot enables walking motion with very slender legs like those of a flamingo without impairing dynamic mobility. This approach enables casual users to choreograph biped robot walking without expertise. In addition, it is much cheaper compared to a conventional bipedal walking robot.
He sees uses for the aerial bipedal robot in entertainment, and imagines that it could be programmed to dance or perform other routines:
Although it is at a prototype stage now, in the future, an entertainment application such as performance or animatronics can be considered. We aim to develop a biped robot that has the ability to display desired motions, including various dances, in addition to walking. I think this work has the potential to make virtual reality experiences possible in the physical world by enabling movements that have been impossible due to the constraints of the mechanisms and properties of real-world characters.
Could the ‘airhead’ become part of Intel’s next drone swarm light show? It would certainly be fun to watch!