Meet Cassie, the walking robot that looks like a pair of disembodied ostrich legs

Agility Robotics, a startup spun off from the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, has introduced its first robot — and her name is Cassie.

Built with a 16-month, $1 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Cassie boasts hip joints with 3 degrees of freedom — much like that of a human. She can move her legs forward, backward, side to side, rotate them both at the same time, and even work efficiently in snow and rain.

The result is a highly energy-efficient robust walking machine that could have a broad range of applications, from search and rescue missions to home deliveries.

“People seem to assume, looking at Cassie, that it was designed to mimic a certain animal — possibly an ostrich,” Agility Robotics CEO Damion Shelton told Digital Trends. “Interestingly, it’s not.”

Cassie, Shelton explained, developed out of a previous Oregon State University research project called ATRIUS, a spring-legged bipedal robot. “Cassie is the result of what happens if you take the physics problem that ATRIUS demonstrated and then do a bunch of fancy math to optimize the mechanical assembly,” he continued. “It just so happens that the gait optimization process ends up looking like an ostrich. I don’t know if I would have expected that a highly efficient outcome would end up looking like an animal, but it’s pretty reassuring that it does.”

The efficiency of walking is not just about solving a neat math puzzle, though. By prioritizing cost of transport (the amount of energy it takes to move a certain mass a certain distance), Cassie doesn’t require a bulky battery pack or constant charging.

cassie robot debut 32804881945 c7c3dd120e k
Oregon State University
Oregon State University

“The battery is quite small by robot standards, and we’re able to run 6 to 8 hours on a charge,” Shelton said. “We think that for practical robot deployment in the real world, energy usage is going to be one of the primary concerns.”

While Cassie is currently available, Shelton said that it may be a few years before we start seeing a version of the robot on our street corner.

Over the next six to nine months, the plan is for Cassie to be pushed out to researchers in the academic and industrial worlds. After that, she will be presented as a possible alternative to commercially available ground vehicle platforms, such as iRobot’s PackBot, a tank tread-based robot that’s been used by the military for search and rescue missions. Only after that is the idea for her to start popping up in more commercial settings.

“We think Cassie could work as a delivery robot alternative to things like the Amazon Prime Air delivery system,” Shelton said. “You wouldn’t have the robot solving the entire last mile delivery problem, but it could focus on getting packages from delivery vehicles to residences.”

Don’t expect the final version to look identical to this model, though. “We’re not suggesting that Cassie in its current form is going to be out there as a commercially-available robot; it’s more likely that it will be one of Cassie’s grandchildren,” he concluded.

Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.

Clean up with robot vac, upright vacuum, and spot and stain remover deals

Whether you're gift shopping or need to get your house ready for the holidays, deals on household cleaning appliances are always welcome. We found Walmart's best deals on robot vacs, upright vacuum cleaners, and spot and stain cleaners.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

An electromagnetic pulse has the potential to disable virtually all electronics within a large area. To help protect against such a threat is a new, friendly EMP emitter. Here's how it works.
Product Review

This was 3D printed? With the Anycubic Photon, you can't tell

Never mind the fact that the Anycubic Photon 3D printer only costs 500 bucks. In terms of sheer print quality, this printer is on the same level as machines that cost six times as much.
Emerging Tech

There’s a new lab-grown meat startup on the block — and it has a secret weapon

Aleph Farms is developing lab-grown steaks with the same flavor, shape, texture, and structure as the real thing using beef cells isolated from living cows. Coming soon to a store near you?
Smart Home

This A.I.-enabled tech brings cutting-edge automation to grocery stores

Takeoff Technologies is working to make grocery deliveries fast, accurate, and convenient using A.I.-enabled technology to augment robotic grocery orders that can be completed in minutes.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers of 2018

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.