When the German company Festo invented a modern method to harness wind energy by a mechanism involving imitating the movements of birds’ wings, the company has been on the radar for all the techno freaks and analysts out there.
But Festo surprised us all when the company went to Australia to build a replica of its famous animal; the kangaroo. The company stuck to its trend of modeling products after animal, but this time, they left everyone in a state of confusion. Why a kangaroo? Well, why not? A robot kangaroo, what could be better? The BionicKangaroo proves what German Engineers can do.
As for the question everyone’s been asking, “why the kangaroo?” Well, it definitely was not random. Any robotics expert would know that the first thing about feasibility and ability in robotics is energy conservation. And the kangaroo is the only animal that best exhibits the energy preservation phenomenon, much like that in a rowing crew when rowers rest after every stroke as they slide back while getting in position for the next strokes. The kangaroo acts more or less in the same way as it jumps and recovers energy while in the air as well as preparing itself for its next jump. In robotics and automation, discovering new ways to preserve energy and use it more efficiently has always been the basic purpose.
The idea behind the design of the BionicKangaroo is exactly that. Recovering energy expended on the jump while it is in the air and at the same time preparing for its next jump. The robot may not look as graceful as the live animal as it jumps around but it is definitely what the world of robotics needed to take a step further into the future. It is an incredibly advanced hybrid of electric drive and pneumatic technology, equipped with specially designed motors planted to control the tail and hind joint movements. The body however is manufactured to be unusually light weight and also has a reservoir for compressed air. The stability of this robot when it is at rest is ensured by the tiny forearms.
The Bionic Kangaroo is powered either by a high pressure storage device or a small compressor. Both of these perform the same task, by offering compressed air that creates the jump. Lithium polymer batteries are used for energy supply. We know that robotics technology has achieved a new milestone when we see the artificially made rubber tendons planted in the feet of this kangaroo-bot. These tendons provide cushioning to the robot as it jumps, keeping the body safe, and also absorb the generated kinetic energy. This is the same energy that powers the next jump. This highly increases the efficiency because of reduced energy requirement with successive jumps.
If you are having that picture in your head right now that suggests that all future robots will now be hopping around, that probably would not be true. But this does ensure newly discovered areas of dynamics that can be applied to the field of robotics and automation. And it certainly adds to the options we have in the technological world. Besides, who would not want to spend money on a hopping robot?