Google’s parent company Alphabet is showing off a new Japanese robot – a lower-cost, lower-power machine designed to help civilians.
The Alphabet-owned University of Tokyo spin-out Schaft can traverse uneven terrain and stairs, and carry up to 60kg.
The unnamed robot was showcased 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.
Unlike Alphabet’s larger bipedal robots such as the humanoid Atlas – 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Since acquisition, Schaft has withdrawn from any public-facing contacts, shutting down its website and making few public appearances, shielded by Alphabet’s X moonshot projects division.
Bloomberg recently reported that Alphabet may want to sell off Boston Dynamics, the robot company that builds human- and dog-shaped robots that featured prominently in last year’s DARPA Robotics Challenge, because some at Alphabet worried about the company’s image being affected by working on giant creepy robots.
— timhornyak (@robotopia) April 8, 2016
“We’re also starting to see some negative threads about it being terrifying, ready to take humans’ jobs,” an Alphabet spokesperson reportedly said in a forum post seen by Bloomberg in March. It’s not entirely clear how Schaft’s relatively diminutive leg-bots would be an image upgrade for Alphabet, but for now,