Scientists are developing faster and smarter robots that would not only replace their clumsier counterparts, but also use much less energy, says a new study.
The goal eventually is to design the first robot that can move 10 km within 10,000 seconds, through and over obstacles, using less energy than it would take a human to do the same task.
'Researchers have been working toward robot locomotion for a long time based mostly on experience and intuition,' said Jonathan Hurst, assistant professor of robotics and mechanical design at the Oregon State University (OSU).
'What we've done is taken a step back to analyse the fundamental dynamics of the mechanical system, what behaviour is really possible for a given robotic system. A rock can't fly, no matter what software you write for it,' added Hurst.
'This is an important advance and gives us a new foundation to tell what actually will and won't work before we even try to build it,' said Hurst.
Right now, most applications of robotics are done with machines working in a precise or controlled situation.
The researchers are working toward something that has similar or better performance, but uses far less energy - the best of both worlds and closer to the abilities of animals.
'If robotic locomotion is ever to achieve some of what we want, it will have to use less energy,' Hurst said, according to an OSU release.
'There are machines that can walk with no active controls at all, using barely any energy, but they fall if they run into the smallest bump.
'We need to use as much of that passive ability as possible and only use motors or active controls if it's really necessary, so we can save energy in the process,' Hurst concluded.
The new findings from the Dynamic Robotics Laboratory at OSU are being presented at two conferences, including the IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation.