Kawasaki has created a four-legged walking ibex – a type of wild goat robot – that can carry cargo or passengers. True, very slowly.
Why torture real horses when you can harness robots? The Japanese showed a robotic goat on which you can ride and carry goods – you have not seen anything like this
Officially unveiled at the 2022 International Robot Exhibition (iREX) in Tokyo last week, Bex is an offshoot of the Kawasaki Kaleido program, which has been working since 2015 to develop bipedal humanoid robots.
But as Boston Dynamics’ experiments with its multimillion-dollar sliding-and-falling Atlas robot show, designing a bipedal robot that’s as agile and stable on two legs as a real human is no easy task. And that’s what led to the creation of Bex. Robotic engineers at Kawasaki were looking for a middle ground between the agility of a bipedal goat robot that can navigate uneven terrain and the robustness of a wheeled robot that avoids balance problems by keeping all wheels in constant contact with the ground.
Why is this robot goat needed?
In normal mode, the robot is rather slow and clumsy, but in situations where speed is more important and the route consists only of smooth paved surfaces, the Bex robot is able to lower its body and kneel on four pairs of wheels located on each of them. As a result, the “robot-goat” turns into a kind of electric scooter. But when the terrain starts to get rough, Bex can stand and maneuver on four strong legs, using a gait that ensures at least half of them are touching the ground at any given time, greatly improving balance.
The Bex has a payload capacity of around 100 kilograms, so in addition to hauling heavy materials, it can carry human passengers who steer the quadruped with a traditional pair of rudders. Realizing the limited appeal and functionality of this wild goat-like robot design, Kawasaki also designed the Bex top to be fully modular.
So customers who want to focus on hauling can ditch the animal design altogether, while those who see an opportunity to upgrade their cattle ranches can potentially take up horse riding with this robot and feel like a 21st century cowboy. Well, we hope that this is not the first step towards the world of the game Horizon: Zero Dawn.