I bought a cool toy. It cleverly computes the trajectory of a cute wagging tail without using a universal Turing machine, or anything similar.
Here’s another example of some nice springy robots research to follow on from my little rant the other day. As well as looking cool and running fast, one of the vague notions I have about springy robots is you should be able to use that springyness to increase your energy efficiency. Springs can store and release energy, and they do it pretty damn well when they are extending and compressing at the right frequency – i.e. the resonant frequency. If you push a spring at this frequency you won’t be fighting against the energy being released from your previous pushes, so you tend to get an ever growing bouncing motion. It should be possible to make use of this in a robot, though it might be a bit of a challenge.
So here’s a nice recent attempt at something like this: EduBot is a robot that is designed to have controllable springyness in its legs. The nice thing about it is that it can adapt the amount of compliance for difference terrains.
I came across a video of some of the old robots built in the MIT Leg Laboratory in the 1980s by Mark Raibert and colleagues. Raibert’s work is quite well known and he wrote a good book back in 1986 describing how these robots were built. Anyway, because it’s so long ago you don’t come across the videos so easily as with newer robots that are all over YouTube. So here’s the link: http://www.bostondynamics.com/dist/LegLab.wmv