Four-legged robot gets 'go faster' wheels

How do you make a four-legged robot go faster?

How about giving it some wheels.

Meet ANYmal - a quadrupedal robot designed for autonomous operation in challenging environments.

Think of flooded rooms, dirty sewage systems, and oil rig inspections - places that are dangerous or unsuitable for humans to go.

But no terrain is too rugged for ANYmal.

Recently, researchers in Switzerland have given their four legged-robot wheels, making it even faster on all terrains.

Marko Bjelonic is a PhD student working on the development of the upgraded ANYmal robot at the Robotic Systems Laboratory in Zurich.

“So, the idea of the wheels is kind of obvious, I mean wheels are around for millions of years now. It was obvious for us but nevertheless in legged-robotics, in the research community, it was not really common to add wheels to the legs and most of the researchers nowadays are trying to copy nature so you look at also humans. You build a biped or a quadrupedal robot and you just try to copy nature. But in our research we tried to say ‘OK can we go a little bit further and add something like wheels that was not able to be reproduced by nature itself.”

Bjelonic said adding wheels to legged-robots had been traditionally avoided because it was thought it overcomplicated their mobility.

“A lot of researchers before assumed OK, adding these wheels will make it harder and slower for these obstacles.’ But what we could show, actually the wheels improve for any terrain.”

ANYmal can carry up to an additional 22 pounds and can be sent on a mission on its own, although a remote control may be used as a safety device.

The robot also has different sensory equipment on board, such as optical and thermal cameras, microphones, gas-detection sensors and lighting.