Robotics engineers are developing algorithms to make HyQ, a quadruped robot, into a useful tool in disaster missions. Jim Drury saw it in action.
HyQ is a glutton for punishment. But there's a serious scientific reason for the abuse this robot endures. Researchers want HyQ to be robust enough for use in search and rescue missions and environmental disasters where it's too dangerous to employ humans. SOUNDBITE (English) THIAGO BOAVENTURA, POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER AT ETH ZURICH, SAYING: "This robot uses here these hydraulic actuators and with these actuators we are able to control all the interaction forces that we generate with the leg. So we can essentially set the dynamical behaviour of the robot using the software.....Here in the knee joint we have the hydraulic actuator that's attached to the joint through a load cell. This load cell is what allows us to control the force that we apply in this joint and consequently to the terrain, so the joints control the forces that will move the robot." It was developed at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa. Researchers there showed that actively controlled machines without passive springs could run and jump over obstacles like humans. Now an ETH Zurich team is developing algorithms to maximise HyQ's full potential. SOUNDBITE (English) ROBOTICS ENGINEER AT ETH ZURICH, PROFESSOR JONAS BUCHLI, SAYING: "That's our research interest in this machine, that we have a machine that can go out there and work in environments that are not known to the robot and do these robustly, so that eventually we can use these robots to do something useful." Such tasks could include sending HyQ, or a future version of it, to radiation sites instead of humans.....evading whatever gets in its way.