Mountain-goat like jumping Robot legs is the next best thing in robotics!

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For all this time, we all have imagined the robots of the future will have the all-familiar legs. Be it human legs, bird legs, mammal legs, but legs we know of and are familiar with. But guess what? That’s gonna change.

In his Masters thesis, Simon Kalouche from Carniege Mellon University, talks about the development of a new design of robotic-legs which are “legs capable of dexterous walking, running, and most significantly, explosive omni-directional jumping and actively compliant landing.”

Allow me to break it down. Called the GOAT leg, it draws direct inspiration from the mountain goats, which shows some out-of-the-world ability to tackle sheer cliffs with its legs, although the design is nothing like the legs of the mountain goat. The legs can walk, run and jump unusually high distances and land gracefully on just about any surface.

GOAT stands for “Gearless Omni-direction Acceleration-vectoring Topology.” It possesses goat-like abilities which comes as a result of a highly dynamic parallel system operated by a trio of electric motors.

This is what Kalouche writes in his thesis:

“Extra-terrestrial landscapes or a collapsed rubble environment, ubiquitous to war and disaster zones, will contain regions of highly rugged yet relatively level ground. In these environments using high bandwidth virtual compliance, made possible by low impedance actuators, will allow the robot’s legs to actively conform to the terrain producing a more efficient and swift mode of locomotion as compared to a statically stable crawling gait which requires accurate terrain mapping and explicit foot step planning.

Alternatively if the terrain is both sloped and rugged it may be ideal to crawl or climb slowly using precise footholds made possible by dexterous limbs with a large workspace. Likewise, unstructured or collapsed disaster environments often contain local discontinuities (e.g. cavities, pits, ditches, curbs, obstructions, large local elevation changes relative to the robots leg length, etc.) in the robot’s path.

To achieve mobility over such a broad set of terrain topographies – spanning structured and unstructured environments – an ideal robot will employ both static, highly stable motions (e.g. dexterous crawling, climbing, walking), as well as highly dynamic agility maneuvers (e.g. leaping, inertial reorientation, controlled landing; running; etc.) to optimally traverse the terrain at hand. Therefore, a capable legged robot must be both dexterous, for precise footstep placement, and dynamic, for running and jumping when obstacles are insurmountable by static gaits alone.”

For all those wondering, this is something huge when it comes to us humans ceding power to robots who are infinitely more powerful than us. So far, legged robots weren’t capable of any dynamic motion, save for a few exceptions. They are particularly bad at running and jumping. It is only recently that a few robots display the basic ability of locomotion skills which we humans and other animals take for granted.

But even then, legged robots, until now, weren’t really up for doing the things our legs are just great at doing- that is, tackling the terrain where tracks or wheels can’t be used. It is in these specific situations that the GOAT legs will come handy.