We had the opportunity to meet with Takashi Saito, Associate Professor at the Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research - Osaka University, and he introduced us to "WhiteGoat", an amazing research robot with some very practical "real world" applications.
He was also kind enough to share a great video of WhiteGoat in action that we've included at the end of this post.
The basic theme behind the development of WhiteGoat comes from the medical field - an evaluation of neural interfaces, especially as they relate to use in human prosthetics. As a part of that original research new linkage mechanisms were developed, and resulted in a series of robots that can actually walk like animals - including the ability to step sideways even at high speeds.
The latest version, WhiteGoat04, has eight legs, is R/C controlled, weighs about 7.7 pounds and has a top speed of 2.6 ft/second. The body parts and linkage mechanisms were designed to be fabricated from sheet metal so that it could eventually be mass produced. The basic design should be easily scalable and adaptable to other power sources. Later versions with four legs are also on the drawing boards.
As you might easily imagine, the potential applications for this type of robot are endless. The video demonstrates WhiteGoat's ability to clear snow - a very practical application since globally hundreds of people suffer major injuries, often fatal, every winter when they attempt to shovel snow off their roofs. We've also seen demos of this type of robot navigating through obstacle courses strewn with debris similar to what rescuers face after an earthquake or other natural disaster.
Video showing WhiteGoat in action, including clearing snow-
WhiteGoat Webpage - Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research - Osaka University
Tabata Laboratory Webpage - Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research - Osaka University