We might as well surrender now. The Robotic Kangaroo is terrifyingly awesome

The Joey-1000 is here, and it’s got a murderous blank stare

Aww
What’s wrong with you? Have your survival instincts completely evaporated?  This isn’t the sort of cute marsupial that graces the Blue Peter couch with big dopey eyes and a cute nose wiggle you know.

Hell, even real kangaroos shouldn’t be messed with. They’ll box you half to death on a whim, and won’t even break a sweat while doing it.

And forging one from metal? That’s just asking for trouble.

You had a bad experience at the zoo as a child, didn’t you?
Apart from dropping our Cornetto in the penguin tank, no. We’ve just accepted that the robots will take over one day, because organisations like German automation company Festo insist on birthing giant killer robots which require no food, no water, and no rest. Our doom is inevitable.

Enough with the tin foil hat lecture. More kangaroo info.
Fine. But don’t say we didn’t warn you. The BionicKangaroo, to give it its proper name, is a one metre tall, 7kg robot that’s quite clearly modelled after one of nature’s greatest jumpers.

Real kangaroos excel at bounding around because they’re able to efficiently recover energy from one jump and utilise it in the next, thanks to their elasticated tendons which store energy in between jumps. If they couldn’t, they’d get tired very quickly and become dingo food in no time.

More after the break...

I don't care about real kangaroos. I want to know more about the shiny metal one.
We’re getting there alright? You need to know how this stuff works in nature before we dive straight in. Do you even science bro?

What?
Never mind. Where were we? Ah yes – the BionicKangaroo is able to jump around like its natural counterpart, reaching 0.4 metres vertically and 0.8 metres horizontally with each leap. It’s able to do so thanks to an elastic spring which replicates a kangaroo’s tendons.

The pneumatic ‘muscle’ which powers the jump itself uses high pressure air to get the job done, and it’s powered by lightweight batteries. Presumably not AAAs. 

How does it balance?
It uses a kinematic control system made up of various sensors which make constant adjustments with each jump. We’d imagine that the tail helps a lot too, just like in nature. Controls are taken care of by a gesture-based Thalmic Labs armband, which is in impressive bit of kit in its own right.

It has built-in sensors which measure the electrical potential generated by your muscle cells in addition to an accelerometer, so you can pilot the killer kangaroo without ever having to pick up a remote control.

When it becomes self-aware (you’ll be able to tell when its white eyes glow red), then not a single fancy armband in the world can save you.

I don’t care. I want to ride one to work
Thankfully, you can’t. This is just a proof of concept to show off how energy can be recovered in industrial automation. But who knows, your new car in ten years’ time could very well be bouncing around on space hopper tires. Something to look forward to, eh?

[Festo via IEEE Spectrum, (1)]

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