Meka Robotics and the University of Texas at Austin, have already teamed up on one very cool robot, and they've just announced another: Hume, a "bipedal robot for human-centered hyper-agility." Hyper-agility, you say? Tell us more!
Hume is designed to study "planar rough-terrain locomotion," which means running at relatively high speed over uneven ground, something that humans are good at. And like humans, Hume will rely on minimal perception: when we run, we're not staring at the ground for every step, but rather adapting passively to small terrain variations without having to devote a lot of brain power to not falling on our faces.
To accomplish this, Hume relies on legs powered by compliant, force-controlled series-elastic actuators. The robot isn't running yet (or doing parkour, as the paper mentions it may eventually), but check out these legs:
If Hume looks a little bit like a certain other advanced bipedal humanoid we've met recently, that wasn't lost on the researchers, who mention in their paper that "we are aware of the new PETMAN robot by Boston Dynamics which delivers high mechanical power and speed but its detailed architecture is uncertain to us." A lot of things about PETMAN are uncertain, that's for sure, but it's pretty cool that we're getting to watch the parallel development of Hume at the same time, and we can only hope that we'll get to see the robots compete in a 100-meter dash some day.
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.