A company's new robot can change from four wheel drive to bipedal in seconds
A company called Swiss-Mile has created an innovative robot that combines legs and wheels to create, what they hope, will be the most versatile last-mile delivery robot on the planet. A spin-off of ETH Zurich's Robotic Systems Lab, the robot can even transform from a quadruped, well quad-wheel, to bipedal form in a matter of seconds.
Capable of reaching speeds of 13.87 mph, this diminutive little robot has been developed over the last five years to be incredibly versatile and efficient. It can carry a variety of payloads including tools, materials, goods, and sensors, up to a maximum capacity of 110 pounds.
Robotic delivery robots, like Swiss-Mile's, will likely become even more important in the future as a means of reducing traffic, improving delivery times, and improving air quality in many urban centers around the world.
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With close to 60 percent of the world's population living in cities, the need for fast, reliable, last-mile deliveries to customers will increasingly require clean (most likely all-electric), small-scale, autonomous solutions like Swiss-Mile to deliver items as cheaply as possible. While this can be, in part, achieved using airborne drones, there are situations where ground-level robots will prove invaluable such as heavier loads and awkward packaging.
Since the robot is able to "stand up" it can use its front legs as arms, grab packages, and puts them in its cargo compartment all by itself. Other drones and delivery robots may require human input for some, or all, of these kinds of tasks.
If you are interested, here's a video of the Swiss-Mile in action.
How do quadruped robots work?
According to Swiss-Mile, their robot "with both legs and wheels, [outperforms] state-of-the-art wheeled delivery platforms as well as lightweight delivery drones. It is the only solution capable of carrying tools, materials, goods, and sensors over long distances with energy efficiency and speed while overcoming challenging obstacles like steps and stairs and enabling seamless navigation in indoor and outdoor urban environments."
One of the robot's unique selling points is the fact, as we've previously stated, that it can transform modes in a matter of seconds. For urban environments, this will prove invaluable as obstacles like staircases can be easily overcome without interrupting delivery times.
The addition of wheels to its limbs is also going to prove to be a gamechanger compared to some other delivery robots and drones, like the footed Boston Dynamics series of robots.
But, the robot's capabilities are not exclusively physical. It comes packed with a variety of special sensors and a powerful AI control system to enable the robot to best plot routes and learn over time.
For example, it comes equipped with LiDAR sensors, GPS and can carry tools, goods, sensors, materials, and other items, both in indoor and outdoor spaces.
Swiss-Mile claims the robot is 83 percent more efficient than legged systems. While we have no info regarding its price, we know that the company plans to make the robot commercially available sometime this year.