Could the next moon mission involve a small step for an ape, but a giant leap for all robots?
With renewed interest in moon exploration — in particular the remote possibility that deposits of helium-3, believed to be in greater concentration on the moon, could one day power nuclear fusion power plants on Earth — robots might be the ideal solution, especially to keep the costs down.
And a design from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (also known as DFKI) in Bremen, Germany, has landed on the chimpanzee as its model for unmanned lunar missions.
DFKI hopes its design — called the iStruct Demonstrator and nicknamed “Charlie”- will capitalize on the inherent stability of the ape’s quadrupedal stance without losing the chimp’s versatility in climbing, grasping and moving over all types of terrain.
“We chose the ape because it allows us to study several locomotion modes,” DFKI researcher Daniel Kuhn told CNN.
“For example, they have quite good quadrupedal walking abilities but they can also perform stand- up motion and walk on two legs — their ability to do this is greater than other animals. This change in posture and walking form interested us,” he said.
Four-legged locomotion, Kuhn explained, might be stable — but for speed and agility on flat ground, bipedal walking has the edge.
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