Update: Google has said that the robot is designed to be a ‘low-cost, low-power, compact device.’
While Alphabet is rumored to sell Boston Dynamics due to a lack of “marketable products”, it still owns quite a few robot companies. This morning one of them called SCHAFT showcased a bipedal robot that is capable of climbing stairs, balancing, and walking on difficult terrain.
Operating under X, SCHAFT has been silent for the past three years and is most known for winning a DARPA robotics challenge. It was acquired by former Android head Andy Rubin in 2013 as part of a Google effort to enter the robotics field. This never before seen robot made its appearance as part of a keynote Rubin was giving at 2016 New Economic Summit in Tokyo.
Unlike Boston Dynamics’ Atlas, the SCHAFT robot does not have arms to get back up in case it falls down. It can carry up to 132 pounds (60 kg) and navigate a variety of challenging and steep terrains, including dirt, rocks, and snow. However, its most impressive feat is the ability to climb a variety of stairs. In one demo, it balances a payload of food while traversing a stadium and in another it is walking across a rocky beach.
As is typical of videos from Boston Dynamics, there is a scene where the robot can successfully stay upright even as a human moves around a metal pole in hopes of making it fall down. In a statement to IEEE Spectrum, an X spokesperson said that the presentation wasn’t a product announcement and just a technical demonstration. It will likely still be a while before we see a mass market robot come out of Alphabet.