Shopping for groceries can be a pain, and it would certainly help to have a robot carry your bags home in the future. Fortunately for those who harbor that hope, even though Google has put Boston Dynamics up for sale following growing disagreement between the two companies, Google continues to demonstrate its prowess in robotics.
The most recent addition to the world’s robot squad comes from Google’s (actually its parent company Alphabet’s) daughter company Schaft, which presented a bipedal robot on Friday at the New Economic Summit conference in Tokyo Japan. In this clip, recorded by YouTube user mehdi_san, you’ll first see a quick display of the robot on stage followed by a preview of what the robot can do. Nothing stands in its way, not forests, snow, rocky beaches, nor even a surprise iron pipe nudged underneath its feet (which it negotiates nimbly without losing its footing). Environmental travel is one of the biggest obstacles for robotics today, and this robot demonstrates the gradual progress that is being made in this area.
As the video also shows, the robot also adapts dynamically to heavy loads. Panasonic recently released footage of exoskeletons that it developed in-house to help with physically strenuous tasks, and we may see ourselves assisted by those suits while working alongside robots like these in the future.
Bearing in mind that this is only what the company is willing to show in public, it wouldn’t surprise us to see something like the Schaft robot working alongside us in the future. Compared to many of the other robots we’ve seen, this one almost seems designed for public use, with its wiring and sensors mostly hidden behind its outer protective shell.
Robots are developing at a rapid pace, and it’s getting harder and harder to predict just when we might start seeing these bipedal units in actual stores or factories. But a future with independent robots assisting us in our day-to-day lives seem much more likely today than it did five years ago.