Although people are fascinated by quadruped robots such as those made by Boston Dynamics, it's unlikely that they'll ever be able to afford such complex machines themselves. Scale things down a bit, though, and four-legged-robot-ownership starts becoming more of a possibility. Such is the case with Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics' Ghost Minitaur, which could be scuttling down a street near you someday soon.
Unlike larger quadrupeds that we've seen before, the Minitaur is just 400 mm long (15.7 inches), weighs 6 kg (13 lb) and has a top forward speed of 2 meters (6.6 ft) per second. It's controlled via an included joystick remote, although it could also be outfitted with sensors that would allow it to roam autonomously.
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One charge of its lithium-polymer battery should be enough for it to bound, pronk, walk, trot or climb stairs for approximately 20 minutes. It can even jump up and pull open lever-style door handles, or climb fences using hook attachments on its feet.
Something that sets it apart from other legged robots is the fact that each of its legs is powered by a direct drive motor as opposed to gears. Not only does this make it less fragile but it also means that via a force feedback system, the motors can instantaneously sense and adapt to changes in terrain that the robot is traversing.
It all looks like a lot of fun, but what might the robot actually be used for?
"Key markets include public safety, search and rescue, military and exploration markets where wheeled or tracked robots perform poorly," Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh tells us. "Varied, rough, vertical and unknown terrains."
It might also find use in the research of robotic locomotion or different types of gaits.
Although the current developmental version is worth about US$10,000, Parikh says that a commercial model might ultimately sell for as little as $1,500. In the meantime, you can watch the Ghost Minitaur in action, in the video below.