Making robots walk is challenging. Making them walk like us is far harder--the human muscular system isn't exactly the simplest thing to replicate. So we get promsining creations like the Athlete Robot, which sprints with a human-like gait...for about three seconds. And then it falls over. But that's okay. Humanoid robots are getting better.
Take Dennis Hong's ASH, or Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid, for example. As its name implies, ASH is designed to serve aboard ships and keep its footing while clambering through passageways and up stairs and ladders. The Virginia Tech roboticist hopes to deliver ASH to the Navy next year, where it will assist humans by dealing with hazardous situations (and probably end up delivering a few beers in peacetime).
Titanium springs in ASH's legs should give it the balance and manueverability to handle stairs and stormy seas, but we won't know unti next year--the robot's only half-built right now. ASH represents an interesting turning point in robotics development: We've nailed how to make robots balance on flat surfaces, but helping them deal with tougher terrain requires making them more imperfect, fluid and adaptable--like us, in other words.
ASH won't be the first robot to tackle stairs, though. DARPA's PETMAN has already conquered that obstacle. And it can do push-ups, too. That's just rubbing it in.
Photo Credit: Wired