Right now, the New Economic Summit (NEST) 2016 conference is going on in Tokyo, Japan. One of the keynote speakers is Andy Rubin. Rubin was in charge of Google’s robotics program in 2013, when the company (now Alphabet) acquired a fistful of some of the most capable and interesting robotics companies in the world. One of those companies was SCHAFT, which originated at the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo and is best known for winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials by an absurd amount.
We haven’t heard anything from SCHAFT over the past three years, and all we know is that they’re now part of X, Alphabet’s experimental technology lab. Somehow, Rubin convinced them to show up to his NEST keynote, and they brought a brand new bipedal robot along with some absolutely incredible video of what they’ve been up to.
A few quick caveats: I literally just saw this on Twitter, posted by Japan-based journalist Tim Hornyak, who was at Rubin’s keynote. I found a few more pics from Rakuten Today’s Twitter feed, and the video above (from someone else in the audience), but I have very little additional information. UPDATE: An X spokesperson says the SCHAFT presentation “wasn’t a product announcement or indication of a specific product roadmap. The team was simply delighted to have a chance to show their latest progress.” So it looks like SCHAFT and the rest of the robotics group at X continue to look for specific real-world problems to address.
Photo: Rakuten Today via Twitter
According to Hornyak, SCHAFT’s new robot (which hasn’t been named yet) “is designed to be a low-cost, low-power, compact device to ‘help society.’ ” It can lift 60 kg, travel over uneven terrain, and even tackle stairs, which are notoriously difficult for robots.
We’ll do our best to find out as much more info on this robot as we can, but for now, this is what we’ve got. Check back for updates!
Special thanks to Tim Hornyak (@robotopia) and Angelica Lim (@petitegeek).
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.
Erico Guizzo is the digital product manager at IEEE Spectrum. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.