So, you already own little remote-control cars, planes, boats and submarines ... what else could there be? Well, how about something that runs? That's just what the OutRunner does. It's being billed as "the world's first RC running robot," and hopefully you'll soon be able to get one for under $250.
The OutRunner was created by Robotics Unlimited, a spinoff company consisting of robotics, electronics and mechanical designers from the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition.
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As can be seen in the photos, it's not a bipedal robot, but instead features vertically-mounted spinning "turrets" on either side, with a series of monopod-like legs extending out from them. As the turrets (or whatever they're called) turn, the legs move forward and meet the ground.
"By having a center of mass lower than the leg axis of rotation, OutRunner robots exploit a buoyancy effect, making them inherently stable and eliminating the need for expensive sensors and complex control algorithms," the company explains on its Kickstarter page. "Energy efficiency is achieved by exploiting the same feature observed in legged animals; using legs as an energy storage system allows for fluctuation and conservation (and not losses) of potential and kinetic energy during running."
And yes, the robots can be steered, by shifting their center of mass to one side or the other. The production versions should also reportedly be able to start running from a standstill, despite what's shown in the pitch video at the bottom of the page.
Robotics Unlimited plans on releasing two versions of the robot. The OutRunner Core will be the basic model, offering a top speed of 10 mph (16 km/h), battery runtime of one hour, and a universal camera mount. It will be controlled by a standard remote control unit, and will have a total of six legs.
The OutRunner Performance, on the other hand, will be for people who take their running robots more seriously. It'll have a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h), go for two hours per charge, and will feature its own 720p onboard video camera that transmits footage in real time via Wi-Fi. It will be controlled by a choice of a remote or a smartphone app, and users will be able to equip it with anywhere from 6 to 12 legs.
So, apart from the novelty value, why bother with a running robot instead of one with wheels? According to the designers, the legs allow the OutRunner to step over obstacles, letting it move over varied terrain. Additionally, each of those legs has a built-in shock absorber, making the robot surprisingly stable.
If you're interested in getting an OutRunner of your own, a pledge of US$249 will get you a put-it-together-yourself kit for a Core model, when and if they reach production. At the other end of the scale, a fully-assembled Performance model will set you back $799, which is still $200 below the planned retail price.