Boston Dynamics has posted some updated videos of BigDog and PETMAN. As far as I can tell, there isn’t much new going on… BigDog still carries a bunch of stuff, climbs up muddy hills, doesn’t fall down on ice, looks like two guys running around under a tarp, and sounds like a swarm of killer bees. The one new sequence that I noticed shows BigDog running (the definition of running being an airborne gait phase) at 5 mph. At the end of the video, when the hydraulics are run externally and the engine is off, BigDog sounds a lot more reasonable. Unfortunately, it’s hard to beat the power density and instant rechargeability of petroleum-based fuels, so we might be stuck with the bees for a while longer.

PETMAN is moving a bit more briskly as well, reaching a walking speed of 4.4 mph. Although it’s dynamically balancing itself, it still looks to me like it’s perpetually on the verge of falling over, but I guess arguably that’s what dynamic balancing is all about. Remember that eventually Petman is supposed to be able to crawl, sweat, and do ‘calisthenics’ to test protective clothing. And when I say eventually, I mean by 2011, but that seems a little bit optimistic at this point. Artificial fingers crossed!

[ Boston Dynamics ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page
Blue

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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