HyQ, a quadruped robot created by the Italian Institute of Technology, already knew how to walk, trot, and kick. Last year, it learned how to quickly react to avoid falls when stepping on an obstacle. Now HyQ is back with even more tricks.
Claudio Semini, the IIT researcher who leads the project, tells us that HyQ has now a "wide repertoire of motion skills that allows it to negotiate challenging and dynamically changing terrain." He says that previous research had focused on reactive behaviors, such as overcoming obstacles or recovering from stumbles.
More recent work has centered on making the robot smarter and more autonomous. For example, Semini and his team are teaching HyQ how to use its cameras and perception sensors to plan and position its feet to traverse rough terrain.
"Like walking over stones when you want to cross a river," he says. Another trick is walking on inclined surfaces. The researchers made HyQ traverse a V-shaped platform, pressing its feet against the sides with enough force to allow it to walk without slipping and falling.
The group is also pursuing more dynamic motions such as fast trotting and reacting to disturbances, taking advantage of the robot's torque-controlled, actively compliant legs, which can adjust their stiffness and damping in real time. This capability allows the robot to absorb shocks and vibrations without damage to the body.
The researchers recently demonstrated that HyQ could perform a "flying trot," a gait in which the robot is completely off the ground during a brief period of time. And in a test that seems to be a favorite among roboticists trying to show their robot can take some hard hits, the IIT researchers slammed HyQ with a 23-kilogram [50-pound] punching bag.
Thanks to its active compliant system, the robot was able to absorb the impact and take fast lateral steps to avoid crashing on its face (if it had a face, that is.)
The IIT team created a video highlighting the old and new capabilities, some of which the researchers will describe in upcoming robotics conferences.
As you can see in the video, the IIT group seems quite happy with its results, calling HyQ "probably the most versatile quadruped robot."