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Robot Runs and Somersaults Using High-Speed Camera as Its Eyes

Roboticists in Japan have created a new bipedal robot that keeps its footing using a unique but effective system: It watches its own steps using a nearby high-speed camera setup. Other walking robots tend to use sophisticated sensor setups to determine orientation, pressure on a foot and timing for when to take the next stride. But another way of getting that animation is close observation of the motion and position of the legs, as the University of Tokyo's Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory shows.

The "Actively Coordinated High-speed Image-processing Running Experiment System," or ACHIRES, has two parts: a pair of legs that runs on a treadmill, and a camera system recording video from the side at 600 frames per second. This high-speed feedback lets the legs adjust the force used and angle in real time — giving the robot the ability to run at about 2.5 miles per hour — far slower than quadrupedal systems, but quick for something so small. And the compact ACHIRES doesn't just run — it can do somersaults as well. ACHIRES won't be leaving the lab any time soon, but it's a promising new approach to robotic locomotion.

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—Devin Coldewey