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Kawasaki four-legged robot capable of transporting a human

Japanese motor industry giant Kawasaki surprised audiences at the 2022 International Robot Exhibition (iREX) in Tokyo with the reveal of Bex - a sleek, four-legged machine with an intriguing dual nature. Bex can walk steadily over uneven terrain using articulated limbs, but also transform its posture to drive wheeled at high speeds. 


The prototype model demonstrates capabilities thus far seen only separately in robotics. Quadruped designs like Boston Dynamics’ Spot can access truly rugged locales thanks to stepping gaits, while wheeled robots offer greater efficiency on flat ground. By combining both movement formats in one adaptable frame, Bex points toward next generation possibilities for all-terrain automation.

Bex shifts between “walk” and “drive” modes by crouching down until its wheeled knees touch the ground. Locking its hovering limbs in place, integrated motors then take over to propel the robot up to high speeds. The transformation unlocks the advantages of both configurations without compromising center mass stability.

Kawaski hasn’t revealed whether Bex has a commercial future, but key details suggest real-world viability. It’s hardy enough to carry over 100kg - including a test-ride by one of the firm’s engineers. And the company designed its hybrid locomotion to require less intensive computing than rival robots. Simplified movement calculations and programming make operation more accessible for customers across industries.

While not as flashy as trend-setting Boston Dynamics machines, early work suggests Bex could excel at mundane yet invaluable tasks like inspecting shaky elevated infrastructure or pulling heavy gear across unpredictable but vital worksites. Striking out its own path, Kawasaki’s transforming robot points to wider adoption of automation beyond perfectly controlled environments.

For now, Bex remains tethered to complete autonomy by communication cables and power lines. But Kawasaki clearly has its eyes on the robot breaking free as the next testbed for the company’s storied mobility engineering legacy. Whether on four legs, four wheels, or eventually its own muscle power derived from hydrogen fuel cells, expect Bex to continue pushing major mobility milestones for robot-kind and beyond.

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