iStruct robot ape evolves to upright because of its active spine

Back in June the world got its first glimpse of the iStruct, a robot ape developed at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the University of Bremen. We predicted that in addition to the stability afforded by walking on all fours, the robot ape could feasibly stand up to free its hands for other kinds of work. Now the team has published a video that shows how their robot accomplishes this maneuver with the help of its flexible spine and sensitive feet.

The iStruct’s primary innovation is its active spine, which gives its added flexibility an…A close-up of the iStruct’s active spineiStruct’s upper-body can tilt and turn thanks to its spineBy standing upright, the robot can put its arms and hands to work.

In email correspondences with Daniel Kühn, iStruct’s primary researcher, he explained that while it’s referred to as a “space robot” (and is being tested in a mock lunar landscape), his focus was designing biologically-inspired robotic structures…

Currently, it may only stand and maintain its balance. However, its multi-contact feet could provide the necessary data to maintain the robot’s balance as it transitions from a quadrupedal to bipedal gait. “There are only a few robots out there with an actuated spine that are actually moving and walking around,” Kühn says. “We want to investigate whether it is beneficial for the locomotion or not – but we think it is. For example, in a two legged posture we have an increased arm range of motion, since the spine is active…”

Helluva beginning. Since it can evolve faster than a Darwinian pace, I expect we’ll see a lot more progress over something short of geologic time.

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