Meet ANYmal: Energy-Efficient Roller-Walking Robot

The robot can use its wheels to reach longer distances more efficiently.
Loukia Papadopoulos

When you think of robotic mobility, you tend to think of Boston Dynamics' Spot. Indeed the versatile robot's many movements have seen it be used to do everything from implementing social distancing rules in parks to inspecting a SpaceX test site.


Now, there's a new robot in town, called ANYmal, that can handle all the terrains Spot can but can do so with more energy efficiency. This is due to the wheels placed on its legs.

The robot, made by ETH Zurich, is nothing short of impressive. A video released by the institution shows the machine tackling all kinds of terrains from uphill grass lanes to actual stairs.

It does all this on legs equipped with wheels which allow it to go further faster and more efficiently. The video explicitly shows the robot alternating between climbing and using the wheels to go further. 

As such, ANYmal projects itself forward allowing it to travel further distances in a shorter amount of time than a non-wheeled robot could. "Traditional legged robots are capable of transversing challenging terrain but lack energy efficiency when compared to wheeled systems. The combination of both domains overcomes the trade-off between mobility and efficiency," says the narrator in ETH Zurich's video of ANYmal.

"Here it can be seen how the robot simultaneously walks and drives generating highly dynamic motions."

Creating ANYmal did not come without complications and setbacks. "The additional degrees of freedom and missing counterparts in nature make designing these hybrid locomotion strategies more challenging," said the video's narrator.

The team had to come up with the proper choice between walking and driving in order to reduce energy consumption and increase the efficiency of mobility. The end result is a robot that can tackle long distances on a variety of terrains and obstacles at high speeds of 13 feet per second (4 meters per second) with ease and grace.

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