Are pogo-dancing robots headed to moon?

Japan has said it envisions moonwalking humanoids by 2015, but jumping robots may be more like it.

Wabian-2R
The Wabian-2R robot can jump, but so far only virtually. Atsuo Takanishi Lab/Waseda University

Bipedal robots taking pogo-like leaps may be the future of moon exploration, according to an idea the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency intends to test in practice.

The moon's gravity is roughly one-sixth that on Earth, which has made it hard for astronauts to maintain their balance as they tried to keep their feet on the planet's surface while walking around. The phenomenon is perhaps best associated in the popular mind with footage taken in 1969 of astronaut Neil Armstrong taking gravity-defying leaps on the moon.

But JAXA, which is among the Japanese agencies that wants to send humanoid robot explorers to the moon in lieu of humans, believes the "pogo jumping" style would be the best way for the machines to carry out future explorations.

Atsuo Takanishi of Tokyo's Waseda University is developing a software simulation of the Wabian-2R to test how a bipedal robot would fare under moon-like conditions. He recently presented his findings to the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics in Tianjin, China.

According to NewScientist, "the team chose to simulate the dynamics of a virtual robot jumping on the spot, like a punk rocker pogo dancing" because the robot's legs would need sufficient thrust to jump and also would need to absorb rapid deceleration upon landing.

"They found that while the robot can leap to a height of 1.5 meters, such leaps put stresses on the robot's legs that make it more likely to fall over. Leaping to 0.8 meters improved stability but reduced the robot's maximum running speed. Future simulations will determine the precise trade-off between speed and stability."

The Space Oriented Higashiosaka Leading Association (SOHLA), a satellite-manufacturing consortium in the Osaka, Japan, area, has vowed to put bipedal humanoid bots on the moon in the next five years. SOHLA is now developing a prototype astro-bot called "Maido-kun" that it hopes will follow in the steps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

SOHLA has already worked with JAXA and Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.

This article originally appeared on CBSNews.com.

 

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