Okay, look. In a lot of ways, we're really not living in the world of the future. Those jet packs we were promised? They're more like ducted fan packs. And flying cars? Really just driveable planes. Sigh.
And then there's Stompy. A giant hexapod. That you can ride in. The world needs this.
Stompy is the brainrobot of Artisian's Asylum, a hackerspace out in Boston. This is a serious undertaking: the guys behind it are experienced roboticists from places like Boston Dynamics, Barrett, and DEKA. The robot will be powered by a 135 horsepower engine driving a whooole bunch of hydraulics, and while it's largely designed to stomp around in an exhibitory manner, the team has big, huge, world-changing plans
The robot isn't just being built for fun, though - it has incredibly practical purposes, as well. With 6 force-sensitive legs and a ground clearance of 6 feet, the robot will be able to walk over broken terrain that varies from mountainous areas, to rubble piles, to water up to 7 or 8 feet deep - everywhere existing ground vehicles can't go. Not only that, but while navigating such terrain, Stompy could carry 1,000 pounds at 2-3 mph, and up to 4,000 pounds at 1 mph. This is important because in disaster areas like Haiti's Port Au Prince, it's taken more than three years to clear the rubble out of some areas - meaning that throughout that entire time, people have had to be rescued or resupplied by helicopter, because no ground vehicle could reach them. Stompy (and the technology it represents) could easily reach people who can't be reached by any other means in a natural disaster.
So how big is big? We could throw a bunch of numbers at you, but here's a better way to convey how big Stompy is:
Yup. That's a person! Really, it is! A tall person, even! His name is Matt! And he's blissed out to an alarming extent while lying under just one of the robot's legs!
So, okay, it's awesome. And it's almost almost almost real: the Kickstarter project to fund Stompy is at $60,000 out of $65,000, with 20 days to go. They're giving out some pretty cool robot and giant hexapod swag, and at the $300 level, you get what you've always wanted but never knew that you always wanted until right now when I'm about to tell you about it and you'll realize that yes, you always wanted to be able to ride on a giant hexapod. It is now possible. Or at least, it will be soon, and you can have a seat. Or for $1,000, you can drive, and presumably run over as many yappy little dogs and small children as you like. Like we said, it's the future, people.
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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.