Robot uses bending legs and pivoting wheels to traverse city streets
We've recently heard about several urban delivery robots which would move along city sidewalks on four wheels. The Mighty bot brings something new to the mix, however, with pivoting wheels that are mounted on articulated legs.
One of the problems with some existing delivery robots lies in the fact that they're essentially just "smart" lockable cargo boxes with two sets of powered wheels on the bottom. This setup is fine for autonomously zipping along smooth sidewalks, but it's not great for going over curbs, climbing up steps, or otherwise traversing real-world obstacles.
Developed by Japanese robotics company Piezo Sonic, the Mighty was created to do such things. In fact, it's actually based on a design concept for a lunar exploration robot … and there are no smooth sidewalks on the Moon.
First of all, its four independently powered wheels can either point straight ahead for normal cruising, or they can all pivot 90 degrees to point sideways – the robot can then move straight to one side or the other. And if all four wheels pivot part-way inward or outward (so they form a circle) the Mighty can spin around on the spot.
Additionally, each wheel is mounted on its own hinged leg. This means that when the robot is moving over uneven terrain, each leg can independently bend to compensate, keeping the main body of the bot relatively level. It can also use this functionality to climb shallow sets of stairs without tipping over backward.
Like other wheeled delivery robots, the Mighty navigates cities using GPS, and utilizes cameras and a LiDAR sensor to dodge pedestrians and other hazards. According to Piezo Sonic, it can carry about 20 kg (44 lb) of cargo, step over obstacles up to 15 cm tall (5.9 in), climb 15-degree slopes, and attain a top speed of 10 km/h (6 mph). The robot weighs 25 kg (55 lb), and is estimated to be able to run for about four hours per battery-charge.
Along with its use in making deliveries, other possible applications include security patrolling of facilities, or performing tasks such as produce harvesting and soil sampling at farms (with the help of an added manipulator arm).
Plans call for the Mighty to initially enter use in the Ota Ward district of Tokyo. It recently won an Innovation Award at CES 2022, and can be seen in action in the video below.
Source: Piezo Sonic