Every week, it seems, robotics experts create new ways to terrify us with their work. In the past, they’ve created mockeries of nature that dance strange mechanical dances, chatter their teeth like possessed mannequins, cheer for sports teams, and play pretend-superhero at theme parks. And now, thanks to a group of Frankensteinian researchers from Caltech, we’ve been made to bear witness to a spindly little freak that can walk a tightrope, fly through the air, and ride around on a skateboard.
LEONARDO, which is apparently a tortured acronym for “LEgs ONboARD drOne” and which also answers to LEO, is “a bipedal robot that combines walking with flying to create a new type of locomotion” according to Caltech. In a video uploaded on Wednesday, we can see LEO’s capabilities for ourselves in all their perverse majesty.
The robot is shown tiptoeing around like a baby xenomorph before lifting up into the air in the first few shots. Then we see it try to endear itself to humanity by doing a tightrope balancing circus routine and rolling around on a skateboard.
The researchers behind LEO say the way birds combine flying and jumping movements to move around power and telephone lines served as inspiration for their work. They also explain that the metal creature’s unnerving feature set is meant to overcome the issue that bipedal robots can’t chase down human prey over “rough terrain” by giving it the gift of flight.
Though LEO is only 2.5 feet tall, it walks with the aid of “four propeller thrusters” that keep it upright and let it take to the air. Just in case you were wondering, they also keep it from falling over when “you ... poke or prod [it] with a lot of force,” according to the co-author of a paper about the robot. As work continues on it, a future version of LEO may be able to “make its own decisions about the best combination of walking, flying, or hybrid motion that it should use” when moving around.
Read more about this mechanical menace in an article published on Caltech’s website.
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