Stefan Schaal and his robotic climbing dog.
A new breed of robotic dogs could one day clamber up steep slopes with the agility of mountain goats.
The brainchild of Stefan Schaal, a roboticist at the University of Southern California, the metal mutt is about the size of a toy poodle and has four pointy feet ending in little balls.
The robotic dogs have garnered interest from the U. S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which recently awarded Schaal $1.5 million to continue his research.
To walk, the robot constantly measures the position, velocity and acceleration of its legs. If one effort fails, the dog learns from its mistakes and tries a different route.
Robo-dog is no speed walker: After more than 15 months and about as many modifications, it now moves at a plodding 0.6 inches per second.
The researchers will attempt to triple this speed and get the dog to successfully scale rocky terrains with sharp inclines in the next phase of the study.
For now, Schaal says there are no plans to make his dogs bark. “Once they can run, I’ll bark for them,” he said.
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