Google’s Alphabet has a new Japanese robot

Sunset in Tokyo, Japan

Google’s Alphabet has a new walking robot that wouldn’t look out of place in Interstellar or science-fiction homes of the future.

The reportedly as-yet-unnamed robot was shown off at the New Economic Summit in Tokyo by Alphabet-owned Japanese robotics company Schaft. It has a very different design to Alphabet’s other robots made by Boston Dynamics, with a compact two-leg design and central body that can be moved up or down to cope with different tasks.

Video of Schaft’s new robot.

Unlike Alphabet’s larger bipedal robots designed either to interact in a human-like fashion with the world - the humanoid Atlas - or to be a robotic packhorse for the US military or dog’s plaything, the Schaft robot is designed to be lower cost, lower power and be used by civilians, carrying up to 60kg over uneven terrain and stairs.

The robot was demonstrated dealing with unsure footing, compensating for standing on a moving pipe in one instance and walking on shingle in another.

A spokesperson from Alphabet’s X told Spectrum IEEE: “[The presentation] wasn’t a product announcement or indication of a specific product roadmap. The team was simply delighted to have a chance to show their latest progress.”

Schaft, a spinout from the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo, was bought by Google at the end of 2013 and won the inaugural US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency robotics challenge with a bipedal robot with arms.

Since acquisition, Schaft has withdrawn from any public-facing contacts, shutting down its website and making few public appearances, shielded by Alphabet’s X moonshot projects division.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Monday 11th April 2016 10.43 Europe/London

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