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Distance Record Broken For a Walking Robot 78

Narrative Fallacy writes "The Cornell Ranger robot has set an unofficial world distance record by walking nonstop for 45 laps — a little over 9 kilometers — around the Barton Hall running track in an event to to show off the machine's energy efficiency. Unlike other walking robots that use motors to control every movement, the Ranger emulates human walking, using gravity to help swing its legs forward. The Robot alternately swings two outside legs forward and then two inside ones and although the robot has no knees, it has feet that can be tipped up and down, so that the robot pushes off with its toes, then tilts its feet upward to land on the heels as it brings its legs forward. The Robot is steered by a hobby remote control which biases the steering to one side or another by lifting one of the four feet slightly. 'We've just moved into this world of electromechanical devices, and to make something this robust is a big achievement,' said Andy Ruina, Cornell professor of theoretical and applied mechanics. 'We've learned tons about what it takes to make walking work.'"
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Distance Record Broken For a Walking Robot

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  • by jwgoerlich ( 661687 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @08:46AM (#23046010) Homepage Journal

    Excellent achievement.

    Of course, this is just the latest of Cornell's long standing reseach into passive dynamic walking. If anyone wants to build something like it yourself, hit the wayback machine to 1998.

    It might wobble and stagger, but Cornell's headless robot is providing insights into how humans walk []

    J Wolfgang Goerlich

  • Or does it look like a barbeque?
  • 9 km? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ozamosi ( 615254 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @08:56AM (#23046058) Homepage
    If one of these would become sentient and try to kill me, I should still be able to out-walk it, then. I just hope they don't make any better models :(
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      I think the true test of robotic engineering will be a robot that can run, swim and climb a rope ladder. It's only a matter of time till those challenges will be solved. Then... they reboot the human race.
      • Re:9 km? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:07AM (#23046398)
        Black people can do all those things, but were still kept slaves for hundreds of years.
        • someone mod this guy up instead of down.. he's right, ya know? it may not be nice to think about, but it's true.
        • by Atario ( 673917 )
          That's because slaves, unlike the robots, were cursed with the human psychology that allowed them to succumb to what we call "a broken spirit".

          Come to think of it, if you were to invent a robot that could get a broken spirit, I bet you'd win some kind of major Mad Scientist award.
  • I, for one, welcome our record distance walking robots overlords.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:00AM (#23046080)

    Oh, and what happened to the forms where I used to be able to sign in while making a comment? I can't anymore? Screw it.
  • by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <slashdot3@just[ ... t ['con' in gap]> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:18AM (#23046160)
    Lots of people don't realize the inherent instability of walking. It's basically controlled/broken falling. You lift up your foot to move it and shift your center of gravity in front of your stationary foot, and start to fall forward. But your other foot comes down and stops your fall.

    Running is actually an easier movement to emulate, interestingly.

    This robot, and all other bipedal robots, isn't really useful. It's a horrible way to move - especially if you have wheels. But it's interesting to be able to see the dynamics of how humans walk, which might help us make better prosthetics and the like.
    • "This robot, and all other bipedal robots, isn't really useful. " On the contrary, bipedal motion is very efficient in terms of energy use and can work on some terrains that wheels can't. Human bipedal motion allowed us to move the long distance between our house and suv, and operate the pedals to drive the 1/4 mile to our nearest convenience store.
      • I'm going to ignore the second half of your comment.

        Why do you say that bipedalism is more efficient? For a completely all-purpose robot (personal assistant?) that needs to scale mountains... I might be able to get behind that.

        But most robots are confined to specific environments, where some type of wheel would be more efficient and stable.
        • Stairs.
          • by Falkkin ( 97268 )
            With the exception of multi-story homes, most places you'd want a personal robot to go are handicap-accessible. Just make a robot use ramps and elevators instead of stairs.
        • by Oktober Sunset ( 838224 ) <> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:56AM (#23046676)
          But humans aren't actually bipedal when they climb mountains. When on a really steep slope you need to use your hands.

          Wheels are way more efficient than legs on flat surfaces, which is why bikes exist. legs are great for lumpy surfaces, but they need to be proper legs, like on Big Dog, not the stupid sticks on this thing. I think people need to distinguish between 'real' walking robots that can wlak over anything and stupid wobble-bots like this that can only shuffle along on smooth surfaces. Take this fucker out onto a grass track outside, and then lets see how efficient it is.
          • Actually, bipedal movement like this, which involves gravity, is more efficient energy wise. Bipedal movement by itself (read motor driven) is not efficient. I think that's what GP meant. For example, imagine a robot with very little energy to move, on Mars, "walking away from the trouble" ...

            And when you use wheels, you cannot effectively use gravity, since they are inherently symmetric.

            What I would like to see now, is that after gaining a little moment, the robot replaces the "feet" with a wheel, effectiv
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Feel free to ignore the second part. The success of bipedalism is evident in humans, four legged animals are obviously faster so human hunters can't compete in that way. But bipedal humans are able to maintain consistent speed for a long periods of time while quadrupeds are only able to maintain their high speeds for short bursts. Essentially humans are able to chase down animals and use their weapons on them. Wheels are great and efficient on flat and level surfaces, but I mountain bike and I can tell yo
          • I hate to point this out, but if you're standing in a pot-hole, you are lower than you'd be standing on the road around it. While it's true you only have to shift your weight to the foot outside the pothole, unless you plan to spend the rest of the day walking with your knees bent, you're going to have to raise that weight at some point. I suppose you could defer that weight raising until you find a downward slope and allow your legs to transition down while your body stays at the same level, but that's rea
  • First, I think it's cool they're working on this. Too often laboratory technology only works well enough to make a cool 10 second video clip, and 5.6 miles is substantially longer than that. As research, I do think this could help shed light on how animals and people walk as well as we do.

    But for applications, if we compare this to wheeled vehicles, well, the DARPA Grand Challenge Robots when 130 miles on dirt roads. And they're based on commercial automobiles, which (amazingly) can often rack up 100,0

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Depends on the purpose of the robot I guess. When I'm old I neither want a Hummer-sized robot nor something flying with Mach 2 to assist me.
    • a while ago, /. featured an article on a robot dog made to carry luggage for infantry.. through dense forests and rough terrain. where no wheeled vehicle could move and no chopper could land. it's also probably more efficient to have a walker along, as opposed to having to find a landing spot for a helicopter, asking for one to drop off some gear, pick it up in the morning and fly back with it again.

      legged robots would do extremely well in natural terrain and inside buildings, compared to any other form of
    • by Oktober Sunset ( 838224 ) <> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:22AM (#23046864)
      I can beat that, I got a Vehicle that can go for miles, it runs on biofuel, that (if available) it can locate and gather itself whenever it stops, and it never needs parts and can repair minor damage itself. It is self guiding once familiarised with the route and automaticly follows roads, it automaticly detects dangerous terrain and will automaticly retreat from attackers. It can achive both reasonably fast speeds on the flat and navigate over rough and muddy terrain. It is fully recyclable and it is relatively easy to manufacture new ones from 2 existing models. It can carry up to 2 passengers and luggage, or can carry a larger amount of luggage. It can also pull another vehicle behind it and it can also work in a team to pull large vehicles. It's only drawback is it needs a human to guide it on any Journeys.

      It's called a Horse.

      You can also get other great vehicles in the 'Animals' range, there's a specialised desert vehicle, (Camel), off road luggage and passenger carrier (Donkey and Mule), and a compact highly adaptable model adaptable for combat, intruder detection, search and rescue, headspace analysis, and home entertainment (Dog).
    • I think the "best way" for locomotion for a bot is determined by the purpose for which it is designed. A remote-piloted drone will naturally be some kind of aircraft, balloon-craft, whatever... A droid designed to work with humans would naturally be best if designed to mimic humans. So there are some very credible use-case scenarios for this research.
  • I click on the link expecting to see some sort of humanoid killing machine, but instead I'm greeted with a stereo with legs stolen from a shopping trolley? Oh, ha ha ha, how funny, you put little eyes on it.

    Also, I thought web pages like that disappeared when they outlawed FrontPage. Oh, right.
  • I, for one, welcome our new nonstop walking robot overlords.
    • i, for one, will form a resistance against them. armed with heavy, iron-studded boots to kick them over :D
    • I, for one, wel-... wait... fuck, I already did this joke [] in this story. Same title too. You should have welcomed our "wobbly and prone to falling-over walking robot overlords," as that's what I wish I had done.
  • Soon many types of robots will be walking, rolling and flying around us. They will collect information about us and do other things that affect our privacy, our safety [] and our commercial relationships. Although legislatures will probably enact a raft of laws to regulate them, an abundance of civil law already exists to regulate their behavior. For example, as we humans come in contact with robots, we can form contracts with their owners [] to limit what they can do or set the rules for interaction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by argent ( 18001 )
      Good luck with that.

      Can't even keep Google Vans out of our driveways.
    • Geez.. I was wondering how is was going to be until some crackpot started complaining about supposed privacy infringement.
        • This is up there with the people who complain red light traffic cameras are an infringement of privacy (privacy to do what? break the law?).

          A robot if programmed would do a comparable amount of work to a person. Same as a camera system designed to watch people who blow through red lights. If it's legal for a person to do it then it should be legal for a machine. If the machine is doing something that would be illegal if it were a person then yes, obviously that should also be illegal.

          • Under the law of privacy, there is a big difference between a human memory and a "record". Under privacy law, the formation of a human memory (about personally identifiable info such as a person's name or medical condition []) is subject to much less regulation than is the creation and storage of a "record". Humans store memories; machines and robots store "records". Privacy law will regulate robots (and red light cameras) very differently from people. Generally, robots will be regulated much more strictly
            • Understood. However if I was dragged into court on an offense, I'd much rather have absolute record of what happened versus some guy just telling the court what I did based on his possibly faulty memory.

              For example, I firmly believe black boxes in cars are a very good thing. If I'm cut off on a highway and it's my word versus his for the accident, I want a technological record of what both cars were doing before the accident to prove what really happened.

              I would even support this being expanded into vide

  • Not only are the machines hell-bent on killing us [] but now they can chase us down for 9km without a break.

    Anyone know where I can buy EMP bombs?

  • a human-size robot. We've already seen the amazing Big Dog [] from Boston Dynamics. How long before we see a human-sized bipedal robot that walks in a fairly human way? This record breaking walking robot just doesn't have the "ooo" factor that Big Dog has.
  • Here's a video of a different walking robot, BigDog. It seems alive - it can be kicked, walks on ice (where it stumbles
    just like an animal), jumps, etc. []

    It's scary to imagine the thing with a turret on its head, though.
  • I assume it stopped because the people controlling the robot decided they had proven their point? I mean, it seems unlikely it would walk contently along for 9 kilometres and then fall apart. Which makes me wonder if there's much point in having a record for distance walked, unless there are constraints, like a maximium amount of energy usage allowed. If not, then the robot whose operators have the most patience will walk the furthest.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is anyone else reminded of the description of the giant walking robots from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds?
  • I'd like to see some robotic spiders, like in the movie "Runaway" with Tom Selleck. How small can you make a power source that would allow them to be useful? Batteries aren't very efficient for their mass and volume.
  • I wanted you.
    And I was looking for you.
    But I couldn't find you.
    I wanted you.
    And I was looking for you all day.
    But I couldn't find you.
    I couldn't find you.
    You're walking.
    And you don't always realize it, but you're always falling.
    With each step you fall forward slightly.
    And then catch yourself from falling.
    Over and over, you're falling.
    And then catching yourself from falling.
    And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.
  • It's a remote-controlled vehicle, not a robot.
  • a Pickup SUV 45 laps around a parking lot (fending off shopping carts with its Rhino Bars), in order to find a very close parking space. So it would hardly have to walk, ever. ;)

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky