There’s a tendency of this blog to focus on mass transportation and the infrastructure that accompanies them. However, engineers around the world are also developing innovative robotics that could improve mobility in the future.
Often these robotic solutions seek to address individual transportation needs or applications where wheels do not offer the best solution. For example, rough terrain, access to contaminated or otherwise restricted areas, or aiding the mobility of paraplegics.
As a brief introduction to the breadth of the research work in this area, below are three interesting projects to look out for over the coming months:
1. Undoubtedly, one of the groups most interested in developing robots is the military. The US’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently released this video, which shows its “Cheetah” robot setting the land speed record for four-legged robots.
The US military wants to improve robots so they can be used in the field and take the risks human soldiers would normally take. A free-running prototype of the Cheetah robot is expected to be finished later this year.
2. The ReWalk exoskeleton (http://www.argomedtec.com/) can be used by paraplegics to stand and move, even walk stairs. The device, which was developed in Israel, is one of the few on the market today and will be used by British woman Claire Lomas in her attempt to complete the London Marathon in April this year.
3. US researchers have invented an entirely new category of robot – the “softbot”, which they say could be used in search and rescue, in space and in biomedical applications. The GoQBot mimics the natural defence mechanism some caterpillars use when threatened called “ballistic rolling”. The video explains better than words. Maybe by 2050 there will be elements of this used in the way we move, at least in the theme park!