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Google unveils its ‘nightmare-inducing’ robot

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Keith Breene (weforum.org):  It can move faster than most of us can run, and happily tackles 1.2 metre vertical jumps. Welcome to the awesome (and slightly scary) abilities of Handle, the two-wheeled, four-legged creation from Google-owned robotics firm Boston Dynamics.

So agile is Handle that even the robotic company’s founder, Marc Raibert, admits to being a bit frightened, referring to the machine as ‘nightmare-inducing’.

The machine can jump hurdles, spin and maintain traction across rough terrain. Moving at nearly 15 kph, Handle can also lift loads of nearly 50 kg without losing its balance. It can travel around 25 km on a single charge.

The wheeled robot is more efficient than its two-legged peers, trading anthropomorphism for something that could be much more useful for jobs that require agility, speed and strength.

Though the robot is just for research and development purposes, it hints at a future where Boston Dynamics might prioritize function over form.

Faster than us

The same robotics lab was responsible for the ‘cheetah’ robot which has managed to run at speeds of up to 45 kph. That’s faster than Usain Bolt.

Completely soft

Another recent development has been the world’s first completely soft robot. The ‘octobot’ looks like an octopus and can propel itself.

The device is made of silicone and uses gas from a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide to power its tentacles pneumatically. The researchers are now working on adding sensors so the bot can navigate its environment.

Able to solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a second

Blink and you’ll miss it: this robot can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 0.637 seconds, 10 times faster than the human record holder.

Admittedly this is a robot with limited immediate applications, but with more than 43 quintillion potential combinations of the Rubik’s Cube’s coloured squares, working out the fastest solution is no mean feat. Commands are then sent to six motor-controlled arms that spin the cube.

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