The New Scientist says that a robot able to carry humans was demonstrated in Tokyo. The article provides a nice picture.
Its creators at Waseda University in Tokyo and the Japanese robotics company tmsuk hope their two-legged creation will one day enable wheel-chair users to climb up and down stairs and assist the movement of heavy goods over uneven terrain.
The battery-powered robot, code-named WL-16, is essentially an aluminium chair mounted on two sets of telescopic poles. The poles are bolted to flat plates which act as feet.
WL-16 uses 12 actuators to move forwards, backwards and sideways while carrying an adult weighing up to 60 kilograms (130 pounds).
"I believe this biped robot, which I prefer to call a two-legged walking chair rather than a wheelchair, will eventually enable people to go up and down the stairs," said Atsuo Takanishi, from Waseda University.
Intrigued by this new kind of transportation, I decided to pay a visit to the Takanishi Laboratory.
The bipedal locomotor page gives lots of details on the WL-15 (Waseda-Leg No.15), which was the previous version of the WL-16. It had the same goal to be used "in the fields of welfare, as a walk support machine or a bipedal vehicle as an alternative to wheelchairs, which can go up and down stairs."
Here are two renderings of expected applications (Credit: Takanishi Laboratory).
I also looked at other projects currently under development and I was quite impressed by the flutist robot. Here is WF3-R9 in concert (Credit: Takanishi Laboratory).
Sources: Celeste Biever, New Scientist, November 21, 2003; Science, November 21, 2003; Takanishi Laboratory, Waseda University
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