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Don't try shaking this robot ape off your car

This cyber-simian from Germany's DFKI keeps its balance even on a wobbly surface. How long before it starts to walk upright?

Monkey business: The iStruct Demonstrator won't topple on a shifting surface.
Screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Here's something I would totally sic my BigDog on, were I lucky enough to own one: a robot ape that can walk around on four legs and may one day stand up on two.

Researchers at Germany's DFKI, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, have been working on what they call the iStruct Demonstrator.

Its purpose is unclear, but with backing from Germany's Space Agency and its application being described as "space robotics," I can only speculate. Planet of the robot apes, perhaps?

Weighing only 40 pounds and powered by lithium-polymer batteries, iStruct is laden with force sensors and accelerometers to keep it moving steadily.

It can walk forward and laterally in a smooth fashion, as seen in the video below. It can also shift its weight around to remain upright on sloping or tilting surfaces, as seen here.

But could it walk upright one day?

"To increase the mobility towards a so-called multi-locomotion system, the rigid connection between the front and rear body will be replaced by an actuated spinal column," DFKI writes ominously.

"An active, artificial spine should, when applied to a mobile robotic system, effectively improve the locomotion and mobility characteristics."

One wonders what the Space Agency of the German Aerospace Center will do with this beast. Give the International Space Station a new robot toy? Colonize the moon?

(Via IEEE Spectrum)