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Beaver-tailed robot mimics tree-climbing insects

Climbing robot uses claws to scale telephone poles.

Boston Dynamics

Here's another offering from Boston Dynamics' zoomorphic line: the RiSE V3, a multi-legged, beaver-tailed robot that can skitter along the ground, shimmy up a pole, and then quietly cling there and stare at you.

The legs are powered by a pair of electric motors and equipped with small surgical needle micro-claws, which allow the unit to dig into and climb up textured, convex, cylindrical structures at a rate of 21 centimeters per second, or just under a half a mile an hour (PDF).

"RiSE V3 is the first general-purpose legged machine to achieve this vertical climbing speed," said University of Pennsylvania Professor Daniel Koditschek, who worked on the project.

The RiSE was the result of a collaboration between Boston Dynamics, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, U.C. Berkeley, Stanford, and Lewis and Clark University, with funding by DARPA.

As with the company's now famous BigDog, what distinguishes this robotic creation is its freakishly familiar gait. RiSE uses a distinctive, koala-like climbing pace, or behavioral gait, propelling the body forward while passively maintaining yaw, pitch, and roll stability. Locomotion--leg motion, strain, and joint position and foot contact sensors--is controlled by an onboard computer, naturally. The front legs are just long enough to hug a telephone pole.

The development team's aim was to reproduce movements they had observed in climbing insects. This is something else that sets this wall climber apart. Most other climbing robots have generally relied on "surface-specific attachment mechanisms," i.e. magnets and suction devices.

Watch a video of RiSE V3 below.