Here is LocoMan, a quadruped robot that can go bipedal and manipulate objects with its forelegs. In the video above, we can see that it is generally being teleoperated — that is, operated remotely in real time — and that its actions are sped up by a factor of as much as 16. That means that it is doing barely useful things with incredible slowness. A three year old, or a dog, could do these tasks just as well.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon were inspired by gorillas and bears, which are basically four-legged creatures that also use their forepaws for grasping and carrying things. Quadrupedal robots have the advantage over bipedal ones on rough terrain. They are much less likely to fall down.

They can also maneuver in tight spaces. This could make them useful in factory settings our in search and rescue, fitting into spaces that would be uncomfortable for humans.  A cramped space might be the best place to do some tasks, but people shouldn’t be confined in an uncomfortable space for any length of time.

But humanoid robots have the advantage when it comes to taking action with objects. LocoMan has a level of dexterity that rivals that of current humanoid robots, while also having the advantages of quadrupedal robots.

The future of LocoMan

Like so many other proof-of-concept robots, LocoMan is not currently useful in daily life. We can imagine settings in which it might be useful, mostly search and rescue settings based on adventure movies we’ve seen, but it’s not going to pay for its keep in the average factory.

We’re supposed to see these advances in robotics from the point of view of what they might be able to do in the future, possibly the far-distant future. LocoMan is a pair of arms added on to a Unitree Gp1 robot. It is outfitted with a customized control system. If we think of that as a starting point, we can probably envision a future bear-like robot that can scurry under that counter and tighten a screw for us. Or maybe climb into archaeological digs and unearth golden treasures without damage.

Overall, LocoMan is important because it pushes the boundaries of what quadrupedal robots can achieve. Its ability to navigate and manipulate objects in complex environments opens doors for its potential use in future real-world scenarios.

When you need support and service for your Rexroth control systems, you don’t have to imagine some far-off future. Just call (479) 422-0390 for immediate assistance.

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