Agility Robotics has unveiled its bipedal robot Cassie that can be used for search-and-rescue missions and package delivery.
Creating cost-effective bipedal robots that are steady and adaptable to different terrains is no easy task. But the folks at Agility Robotics, a new spin-off company from Oregon State University, are certainly up for the challenge.
Agility Robotics unveiled its new bipedal robot Cassie, a dynamic walker that tries to imitate how humans move. And it’s damn impressive. But that shouldn’t be a surprise as the company is made up of folks who worked on ATRIAS and MARLO, which are two of the more skilled bipedal robots ever built. On a side note, ATRIAS was also the subject of one of our favorite robot videos of all time where OSU students pummeled it with dodgeballs.
So while it was heavily inspired by ATRIAS, everything with Cassie was upgraded to get the size down. In particular, significant improvements were made in the batteries, leg design, and computing power that make Cassie more agile. Agility Robotics made the lithium-ion battery pack. It looked to have a third-party build the battery, but the only options it found were designed more for electric vehicles and home backup power and would’ve been too big for Cassie.
Cassie’s hips have 3 degrees of freedom, just like humans, so that it can move its legs forward and backward, side to side, and rotate them at the same time. Cassie also has powered ankles to that allow it to stand in place without having to constantly move its feet, which is quite common with other bipedal robots.
Agility Robotics says Cassie can take a pretty good fall without breaking. That’ll be proven over time, but Cassie is half the weight of earlier robots developed at OSU.
So what could Cassie be used for? Cassie’s walking abilities could certainly be integrated into search-and-rescue robots or to improve prosthetic limbs or the struggling exoskeleton market, but Agility Robotics says package delivery is a leading application for this type of mobility.
“This technology will simply explode at some point, when we create vehicles so automated and robots so efficient that deliveries and shipments are almost free,” says Jonathan Hurst, an associate professor of robotics in the OSU College of Engineering, and CTO at Agility Robotics. “Quite simply, robots with legs can go a lot of places that wheels cannot. This will be the key to deliveries that can be made 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by a fleet of autonomous vans that pull up to your curb, and an on-board robot that delivers to your doorstep.”
Interestingly, Boston Dynamics, known mostly for its ATLAS bipedal humanoid robot, has been working on its first wheeled robot called Handle. Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert says Handle is an exercise in building a humanoid that has less degrees of freedom and is less expensive, but one that still has significant capability. One of the issues with commercializing a robot like Atlas, for example, is that legged robots aren’t as efficient and they’re quite costly.
Boston Dynamics also recently said that package delivery is a practical application for its SpotMini robot dog. Raibert recently said “we’re exploring the idea of home delivery. Instead of using drones, maybe you can do it with plain ol’ robots.”
Of course, Boston Dynamics robots would need to come down in price before being a cost-effective delivery option. And the same applies to Cassie. Agility Robotics says its goal is to build robots that cost less than $100,000. It says some of Cassie’s initial sales will be to other academic and research institutions to build upon of this platform.
“This robot capability will free people from weekend shopping chores, reduce energy use, and give consumers more time to do the things they want to do. It effectively brings efficient automated logistics from state-of-the-art warehouses out and into the rest of the world.”
We’ve reached out to Agility Robotics for more insight on how package delivery would work with Cassie. We’ll update this story when we receive more information.
Rendering of Cassie’s final design. (Credit: Agility Robotics)