Japan, no stranger to work that involves delivering robotics to every facet of human society, thinks it may have figured out the best way for bipedal robots to move on low gravity worlds like the moon. Enter the pogo stick:
Using a two-footed, high hopping approach, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) believes something resembling the venerable pogo stick, not traditional human locomotion, could be the perfect way for a two-legged robot to traverse the moon.
But why hop? Because, simply, with lower gravity a robot has more time to correct itself during a fall than it would during a bounding run or even brisk walk. Falling is something that happens quite frequently here on Earth with bipedal robots, but once you introduce some two-legged, 1.5-meter high hoping to the mix, the robots do just fine (in simulations, anyway).
And why legs at all? Because, as you can see with the Mars rovers, sometimes wheeled probes can get stuck, especially in granular sand or regolith as it found on our neighbour the Moon. A hopping bipedal approach would then be just another tool for scientists to use while exploring the cosmos.
So think about that for today. If lead researcher Atsuo Takanishi at Waseda University in Tokyo has his way, the future of space exploration could resemble an inflatable jumpy castle, complete with bipedal robots exploring the stars executing graceful 5-ft bounds across alien worlds. [New Scientist]