Some day in the not-too-distant future, an autonomous delivery van may pull up in front of your house. A bipedal robot will then step out, and carry a package to your front door. That scenario is envisioned by Jonathan Hurst, an associate professor of robotics at Oregon State University, and chief technology officer of spin-off company Agility Robotics. To that end, his group has developed an ostrich-like two-legged walking robot … and it's called Cassie.
First of all, Cassie isn't intended to make deliveries in its present form. It's intended more as a developmental platform, to be utilized by other robotics companies and research institutes. In other words, a Cassie-derived robot may eventually come strolling up your front walk.
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The team used a previous Oregon State-designed bipedal robot, ATRIAS, as its jumping-off point when designing Cassie. "ATRIAS had motors that would work against either other, which was inefficient," notes Hurst. "With Cassie, we've fixed this problem and added steering, feet, and a sealed system, so it will work outdoors in the rain and snow as we continue with our controller testing."
Additionally, Cassie weighs about half as much as its predecessor. And no, it's not specifically intended to look like an ostrich – although the group did make a point of studying bird legs as a means of achieving agility, efficiency and robustness.
Plans currently call for initial production to take place at Agility's facilities in Albany, Oregon. Other legged robots may follow, once Cassie production ramps up.
"We want to be able to design and build machines that can go anywhere that a human can go, and run on about the same amount of energy," says Hurst.
Cassie can be seen in action, in the video below.