Skip to Content

An Impressive Walking Google Robot Tries to Vacuum the Stairs

An odd-looking bipedal bot, created by a Japanese subsidiary of Alphabet, can climb stairs and carry heavy objects around a home.
April 11, 2016

These strange-looking, two-legged robots might be the predecessor of a machine that someday helps with chores around the home.

The bipedal bot, which has yet to be named, was developed by Schaft, a Japanese robotics company that is part of X, the research lab owned by Alphabet (previously Google). It was revealed at an event in Japan hosted by Andy Rubin, who started Google’s robotics project before leaving the company at the end of 2014 to create his own hardware incubator.

A video shot by someone at the event shows the robot carrying a heavy-looking gym weight, slipping on a tube without falling over, and cleaning a set of stairs with a vacuum cleaner brush attachment on its feet. It can also be seen walking through a forest and along a rocky beach.

It looks like the robot’s low center of gravity might help with its dynamic balancing. Usually such robots are very power-hungry, so it would be interesting to know how much that helps with power consumption.

The demo is especially interesting in light of Alphabet’s decision to sell off another robotics company, Boston Dynamics, that's working on walking robots. Perhaps the fact that Schaft’s robot is seen doing housework is a sign that Alphabet thinks it can commercialize the company’s technology sooner.

Schaft was spun out of the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo, and one of the company’s robots took part in the first stage of DARPA’s Robotic Challenge. In fact, Schaft’s robot dominated the competition, demonstrating remarkable control, dynamic balance, and power-efficiency. But it was withdrawn by Google from the second stage of the contest for undisclosed reasons.

(Sources:"A Transformer Wins DARPA’s $2 Million Robotics Challenge," "Google Hasn’t Given Up on Robots")

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Russian servicemen take part in a military drills
Russian servicemen take part in a military drills

How a Russian cyberwar in Ukraine could ripple out globally

Soldiers and tanks may care about national borders. Cyber doesn't.

Death and Jeff Bezos
Death and Jeff Bezos

Meet Altos Labs, Silicon Valley’s latest wild bet on living forever

Funders of a deep-pocketed new "rejuvenation" startup are said to include Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

ai learning to multitask concept
ai learning to multitask concept

Meta’s new learning algorithm can teach AI to multi-task

The single technique for teaching neural networks multiple skills is a step towards general-purpose AI.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.