"The Rise of the Quadruped Robots" sounds like something out of decades-ago science fiction. However, in today's robotics world, quadruped robots have advanced to both the front pages and the front line; defined as robots employing four legs to move around for their missions, quadruped robots have gone beyond cute "pets" for the household (although those are still present).
So what friendly quadruped robots should you be aware of? Which one stands out above the others? Here's our rundown of the quadruped robots established in the industry—and the ones on the rise.
Spot, from Boston Dynamics, is the true rock star of the robotics industry. This friendly four-legged robot dog creature from the wonder-workers at Boston Dynamics is a nimble, mobile wonder, able to do everything from navigating tough terrain to inspect bustling industrial spaces. The coolest thing about Spot? The continual innovations people keep adding to the robot; just recently, for example, an art gallery armed Spot with a paintball gun and Boston Dynamics added an arm to it (the addition of program functionalities and adaptations is one of the most appealing aspects and sales points of Spot). Spot will continue to be at the front of the quadruped robot revolution for the foreseeable future.
"Solving challenges that only four legs can stand up to" is the slogan of the ANYmal C from Anybotics. This "autonomous legged robot for challenging environments" comes explicitly designed for industrial inspection tasks, with powerful visual and thermal cameras, water- and dust-proof construction, obstacle avoidance and real-time motion planning for smooth movement, and a 360-degree "Lidar" feature for high-accuracy scanning. ANYmal also recently got some wheels, as well (look out for some more details on this adaptation).
The Stanford Doggo has an intriguing origin story: this powerful four-legged robot came from the minds of the Stanford Student Robotics club's "Extreme Mobility" team. This agile and maneuverable robot's main claim to fame? Well, it's open for anyone to use for their own purposes; those interested in reproducing the "doggo" tricks can view the robot's plans, code, and supply list that the Stanford students put online.
There are more robot dogs out there! Hailing from Florida Atlantic University, "Astro," the robot dog (hopefully, that's a reference to the fabled Jetsons pooch) actually really looks like a dog and doesn't just walk like one. Astro has a Doberman-like head, responds to familiar dog voice commands, and can even "think like a dog" with AI and deep learning methods. It's meant to keep growing and learning, just as a puppy would over its life. Currently, the Astro dog projects to have plenty of use for military and police applications.
Unitree Robotics has three fabled quadruped robots out on the market: the A1, the Aliengo, and the Laikago Pro. The A1 can serve as a "great jogging companion," with a continuous running speed of about 3.3 meters/second. The Aliengo is an extremely flexible and durable quadruped, boasting movements from backward running and creeping forward to roll over, jumping, and obstacle crossing. The Laikago Pro gets four hours' worth of work from one charge and can carry 15 pounds worth of cargo across tricky terrain. Together, they make up a powerful stable of quadruped robots from this fast-rising industry powerhouse.
One of the more remarkable quadruped robots out there is the ALPHRED2, the brainchild of UCLA's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLA). Check out the layout of ALPHRED here; with four legs symmetrically around the robot body, ALPHRED is extremely mobile and flexible. It can run, jump, hop, carry objects, and scoot around with a pair of body-mounted wheels. Pretty remarkable creation, isn't it? Be sure to check out some of the videos that show exactly what ALPHRED can do.
Of course, those aren't the only four-legged robot friends that are out there! From the line of Ghost Robotics Q-UGV quadrupeds and the back-flipping MIT Cheetah to the emotion-sensing Koda robot dog and the Aibo robot, more and more of these remarkable four-legged robots make their way to the industry every month.
Today's quadruped robots are technologically-advanced wonders used for everything from industrial and commercial to research and military purposes. Where do you see this trend going? How could these quadrupeds help you out with your daily life—both at home and in your business?
Picture Credit: MIT Biomimetic Robotics Laboratory / ANYbotics