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/ Source: NBC News

On a clear day at the Oregon State University campus, one often sees dogs out for their afternoon walk — but robots? That's the sight you would have been treated to last week when roboticists from OSU brought their two-legged ATRIAS robot onto the quad to demonstrate its remarkable skills of locomotion.

ATRIAS is built to resemble bipedal animals in how it walks, specifically ostriches. This isn't easy, but it's purposeful. "That’s part of what’s unique about ATRIAS," explained OSU mechanical engineer Jonathan Hurst in a news release, "not just that it can walk, and will eventually run — but that it’s doing so with animal-inspired fluidity of motion that is so efficient."

Christian Hubicki, a postdoc on the team, said, "It already appears that ATRIAS is three times more energy-efficient than any other human-sized bipedal robots. And this was the first time we’ve been able to show its abilities outside, in a far more challenging environment than anything in a laboratory."

This efficiency means a little power goes a long way, allowing for smaller battery packs and lighter materials. The compact, two-legged design also could move with easy anywhere a human can. The four-legged design of robots like BigDog and Spot may be more stable, but ATRIAS is no pushover, so to speak: the last time we heard from the team, the robot was weathering an assault of dodgeballs without a problem.

ATRIAS is funded by DARPA and is a collaboration with engineers and biologists at the University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon and the Royal Veterinary College.


—Devin Coldewey