Swiss Team Develops Transformer Robot Dogs with Flexible Abilities: Can Switch Between “Human” and Canine Form, Use Forelimbs to Open Doors and Retrieve Objects

As research in the field of robotics is booming, there is another new achievement worthy of attention: the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) has launched a newly developed robot dog, claiming to be “Transformers in the robot dog world“.

It can “be both a human and a dog” (bushi),Flexible transition between crawling and upright modes.

Advertisement

This is the latest achievement from a well-known Swiss-Mile company. It was jointly founded by some robotics practitioners in Switzerland under the leadership of several scholars from ETH.

As long as it lifts the front wheels and stands up, it transforms into a “person” and its two front “legs” become “arms” to complete actions such as opening doors and picking up objects. After reading it, netizens said that maybe they can rely on it to deliver express takeaways in the future.

So, what kind of actions can this little robot dog do?

Advertisement

The front wheel can be used as an arm

Normally, its four wheels are used for walking, and the wheeled drive method also makes movement faster.

When going up and down stairs or over obstacles, the movements are fast and smooth, and there is no slippage or failure to brake due to the wheeled structure.

Even if it only relies on its rear wheels, it can stand stably and complete operations such as walking and turning without falling.

If given additional support, it can use its forelimbs as arms to steadily pick up a box on the table and put it into a basket nearby, or walk while holding the box…

In terms of performance, the robot dog can move at a speed of up to 6 meters per second, can carry a maximum load of 60 kilograms, and has a battery life of up to 5 hours.

So how did the Swiss-Mile team get their robot dog to “stand up and work”?

This robot dog is deployed on the Unitree Robotics hardware platform and is modified from the ANYmal robot dog jointly launched by ETH and ANYbotics in 2016.

They added powered wheels to ANYmal, which improves its mobility and ability, and allows it to cope with complex environments such as stairs and sidewalks.

In order to allow the robot dog to stand up and complete actions such as opening doors, the team used a method called“Curiosity-driven” reinforcement learningmethod to train it.

In this learning mode, the robot dog is given a goal (such as opening the door) and then has toExplore on your ownHow to complete the entire mission.

Specifically, it requires constantly exploring and trying different action sequences, such as adjusting body movements and angles, until the task is successfully completed.

At the same time, this learning method introduces a new reward mechanism. Actions such as opening doors and moving boxes are considered high-level goals, also known as “sparse rewards”, which means that the robot dog will not complete the entire task. Any encouragement or guidance received along the way.

Such an approach also improves the reliability and diversity of the way the robot dog performs tasks – for example, if it drops during package handling training, it can learn how to pick it up again.

The team behind it received US$3.5 million in financing

Swiss-Mile was founded in April 2023. The CEO is a postdoctoral fellow at ETH Research Robotics Marko Bjelonic.

Marko also completed his doctoral career at ETH, during which his supervisor Marco Hutter The professor is also a co-founder of the company and also serves as a consultant.

In addition, Swiss-mile has two Chinese members on its board of directors, namely Linear Capital partner Songyan Huang as a director and Agile Robots co-founder Yuekai Zhao as an observer.

In December of the same year, the company received US$3.5 million (approximately RMB 25 million) in seed round financing from investors including Agile Robots, Sequoia China and Linear Capital.

Reference links:

  • (1)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmXulwvCsZA

  • (2)https://spectrum.ieee.org/quadruped-robot-wheels

  • (3)https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/swiss-mile/company_financials

Advertisement