This week Festo unveiled a bird-inspired wind turbine, but yesterday, the company unveiled a new robotic creation that's a little more recognisable. The world may not have a huge need for a bionic kangaroo—outside of Australian-themed amusement parks—but emulating the marsupial could result in robots with remarkably long endurance.
Kangaroos are able to hop around for so long because they use the tendons in their legs like springs to capture and re-use energy. And Festo has managed to successfully emulate that behaviour in its BionicKangaroo.
A small battery-powered internal air compressor generates the pressure needed to launch the BionicKangaroo into a half-metre-high jump. And upon landing, an actual spring (in lieu of a tendon) compresses to recapture some of the energy generated for the jump. It doesn't mean the kangaroo can hop around forever, but it does allow the robot to maximise the life of its rechargeable batteries.
Given how adept real kangaroos are at navigating Australia's rugged terrain, the technologies developed by the BionicKangaroo could be applied to ground-based autonomous vehicles which are less likely to get stuck without wheels. And you can just imagine how awesome robotic kangaroo boxing might be one day. [Festo via IEEE Spectrum]