Wheeled legs let LimX Dynamics' W1 quadruped robot walk n' roll
Two years ago we first heard about the Swiss-Mile Robot, a quadruped bot with powered wheels on the ends of its four legs. It's now in for some competition, as China's LimX Dynamics has announced it own wheeled quadruped, called the W1.
First of all, what's the point in putting wheels on a robot's legs?
Well, when traveling on smooth roads, sidewalks or floors, wheels allow the W1 to travel much faster and more energy-efficiently than if it were trotting like a horse.
Those legs still come in very handy, though, as they let the robot step up over curbs or other obstacles, traverse uneven terrain, and climb/descend stairs. As it performs these actions its wheels stay locked, so the bottoms of their tires serve as grippy foot pads.
Additionally, when taking the stairs, the W1 can adjust its body angle by bending its legs up and down. In this way, it's able to keep its body either horizontally level or parallel to the slope of the staircase. This functionality keeps it from dropping sensitive cargo loads (when horizontally level) or allows it to make its way through confined spaces (when staying parallel).
The W1 can also adjust its height when rolling along flat surfaces, so it can sit lower in order to avoid overhead obstacles, and maintain stability at high speeds. When rolling on rougher surfaces such as dirt roads, its bending legs can additionally serve as shock absorbers.
And while the W1 is remotely controllable, an onboard real-time terrain perception system lets it autonomously switch between different modes of locomotion as dictated by its surroundings.
LimX has stated that it will start taking preorders for the W1 later this year. Performance specs and pricing should be announced at that time. In the meantime, you can see the robot in action, in the following video.
Source: LimX Dynamics