Wheeled, legged quadruped robot is now set to stand and deliver
ETH Zurich's ANYmal robot was already impressive back when it simply walked on four legs. It got more interesting when wheels were added to those legs, letting it both walk and roll. That wheeled version is now also able to stand up, and could soon be used for urban deliveries.
This latest incarnation of the ANYmal is being developed by ETH Zurich spinoff company Swiss-Mile, and is thus known as the Swiss-Mile Robot.
Like the original version, it has four legs. By locking up the wheels on the ends of those legs, it's still able to walk like a quadruped animal when necessary – this comes in particularly handy when it has to climb stairs, which would stymie most other wheeled robots.
For moving along sidewalks, floors and other flat surfaces, though, rolling is much faster and more energy-efficient than walking. That's where the motorized wheels come in, as they now allow this model to travel at speeds of up to 22 km/h (14 mph). As an added bonus, if the robot needs to roll down a set of stairs or off a curb, the legs flex to act as shock absorbers.
The bot utilizes a combination of GPS, LiDAR sensors and cameras to autonomously navigate city streets and avoid obstacles. We're told that it presently has a runtime of two hours per battery-charge.
And yes, it is now capable of standing up and rolling along on its rear wheels. When doing so, it's able to maintain its balance by continuously analyzing data from its onboard IMUs (inertial measurement units), and by analyzing measurements made by all 16 of its leg and wheel motors.
But what's the point in standing? ANYmal co-developer Dr. Marko Bjelonic tells us that by using its front legs as arms, the robot could grab packages from clients and then place them in a cargo compartment on its back. It would then go back down onto all fours, and transport those packages by quickly rolling along the street.
Plans call for the Swiss-Mile Robot to be commercially available starting sometime next year, at a yet-to-be-announced price. For now, you can see it in Tesla-racing, stair-climbing, rear-leg-balancing action in the video below.