When your office environment is genuinely filled with people who are rocket scientists, chances are that you’re bound to come up a bright idea or two. Such is the case with JPL’s ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) robot, which was developed by JPL with the help of Boeing, Stanford University, and NASA’s Johnson and Ames Centers. According to the NASA ATHLETE project page, JPL has been hard at work on a new autonomous robotic vehicle concept that combines six legs (capped with wheels) that each feature six degrees of freedom (DOF).
The current version has a paylod capacity of 450 kg, but future variants will be larger and more capable. JPL hopes that robotic vehicles developed under the ATHLETE project will eventually be able to cross most terrain types, have a 10-year life cycle (under hostile conditions), and “Demonstrate a useful ‘voice and gesture’ command mode to enable suited astronauts to interact with these vehicles.”
It all sounds very impressive, but let’s be honest: I’m sure at least one NASA engineer has entertained the thought of covering this thing with brown bristles, slapping on some plastic fangs, and sticking on some LED-powered peepers. What better way to scare the bejesus out of your neighbors at Halloween than to have a monstrous robotic tarantula-like thing at your beck and call? (And yes, I do know that tarantula have eight legs, not six. Don’t mess with my feeble attempt to turn this into the ultimate Halloween prop.)
Check out the NASA/JPL ATHLETE rover system page for some additional photos and video clips of this impressive new robot in action.
(Photo:© NASA/JPL Source: JPL ATHLETE rover system page) [- Jeff James]