Dubbed the ‘Bionic Kangaroo’, a surprising new robot created by German company Festo was recently unveiled in Hanover.
The robot’s jumping power is provided by pneumatic actuators, which also act as shock absorbers upon landing. It runs on rechargeable lithium polymer batteries and electric motors help it maintain balance and control its position. Weighing in at just seven kilos, it can jump 40 centimetres high – that’s almost half its own height.
“We have (created) an Achilles tendon which is similar to the one in the natural world. With this Achilles tendon we are able to get energy from the landing and we can bring this energy back for the next jump,” explained Elias Knubben, head of Festo’s Corporate Bionic Projects.
Its developers say they are not aiming their product at the market but made it as a tool to show the power of biomimetics – the human-made process that imitates nature – and its potential for industrial automation.
Also made in Germany, the Kuka robotic arm is sophisticated enough to play table tennis at a professional level.
Its makers tested the robot’s speed and precision in a match against German table tennis champion Timo Boll.
Though the machine’s performance remains weaker than man’s with Boll winning 11 to 9, he believes it’s just a question of time:
“Table tennis is still a very complicated sport, with a lot of rotation, and the actual sensors and logic is maybe not as good as a human being, but maybe in the future robots can be real competitors for us,” said Boll.
The ultimate aim is not for the robot to compete with a world-class table tennis player but to take on jobs requiring a high degree of precision, in ways that could change the face of the automation industry.