London: When our robot overlords come to power, they may not look exactly how you imagined. If Festo has its way, they could look more like unstoppable hopping kangaroos rather than Terminator-styled machines. For the past two years, the German group has been secretly working emulating the jumping behaviour of the kangaroo in robot form.
Getting inspired: The RoboticKangaroo (above) partially ‘charges’ the legs on landing. Its movement is based on that of a real kangaroo (below), which uses its tendons like elastic springs to jump around
It’s one of their most ambitious bio-inspired robots yet and could help improve industrial automation systems that manufacture products such as cars and computers.
Dubbed BionicKangaroo, the robot is controlled by gestures and can efficiently recover energy from one jump to help it make the next. It does this by using an elastic spring, which partially ‘charges’ the legs on landing.
This is similar to the technique used by kangaroos, who use spring-like tendons to hop from one place to another. Besides, the robot is fitted with a small storage tank to provide high pressure air for the pneumatic muscles for movement.
“With the BionicKangaroo we have precisely reproduced the most characteristic features of natural kangaroos: recuperating and storing energy, and then releasing it once more in the next bound,” Festo’s Dr Heinrich Frontzek said. The entire robotic animal weighs just 15 lb (7kg) and stands 3ft 3inches (1m), but it can jump 1ft 3inches (40cm) vertically and 2ft 7 inch (0.8 metres) horizontally.
>> Before the initial jump, the elastic tendon is pneumatically pre-tensioned and the robot shifts its centre of gravity forward
>> Upon reaching a certain angle, the cylinders are activated and the energy from the tendon is released
>> This causes the bionic kangaroo to take off and as it does, it pulls its legs forward creating torque at the hip