Even though we're just one decade into the twenty-first century, we've made great leaps in robotic technologies. From the absolutely stunning transformer robot that was brought to us by MIT to the four-legged robot that acts like a demented cat straight from your nightmares, scientists have demonstrated that we're readily approaching the same technology-dominated future that science- fiction has long predicted. Now, researchers working in Japan have unveiled the most spectacular advancement yet — a tiny, two-legged machine that has the distinction of being of one of the fastest two-legged Image-processing Running Experiment Systems ever created.

But that is its system. How fast can it actually move? Well, it can reach speeds of  2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers) per hour, or about 6 steps each second. Pretty impressive for a machine no larger than 5.6 inches (14 centimeters) in length, am I right?

Achires In Action (Credit: Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory)

This robot, called Achires (an acronym for the "Actively Coordinated High-speed Image-processing Running Experiment System"), employs the usage of a high-speed camera to help it move quickly without toppling over. Its capabilities allow it to modify its "posture" if it needs adjusting. Similarly, it can anticipate certain obstacles.

Amazingly, it has even more tricks up its sleeve. Achires is so sophisticated, it can effectively jump, land a back flip, and perform a somersault. Moreover, the team is actively working to make the next-generation robotic device faster than your average human; they even hope to use it to develop a robot that can safely traverse a tightrope. However, before we can look into the future, we must first sort out some of the design's flaws.

One such flaw is that the current prototype only works for ten consecutive seconds. Plus, there is that whole "nothing but legs" thing. According to the researchers:

ACHIRES is composed of high-speed vision and high-speed actuators to achieve instantaneous recognition and behavior. The similar technologies are used in our Janken (Rock Paper Scissors) Robot. High-speed vision detects the state of the biped robot including the timing of landing at 600 fps. The biped mechanism with the leg length of 14 cm is set to run in the sagittal plane. At present, the running velocity reaches 4.2 km/h. Simple control based on high-speed performance of sensory-motor system enables the biped robot to stably run without falling, unlike computationally expensive ZMP-based control which is commonly used for balance. The aerial posture is recovered to compensate for the deviation from the stable trajectory using high-speed visual feedback.

We also address a task of somersaulting. While running, the robot takes a big swing with one foot and jumps. After takeoff, both legs are controlled to curl up for high-speed rotation in the air. ACHIRES is going to be improved to push the envelope while demonstrating various biped locomotion tasks.

[Learn more here.]

WATCH: "ACHIRES: Bipedal Running Using High-speed Visual Feedback"

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