© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

VIDEO: Meet The Bots That Beat The Obstacles

The wall-climbing robot in action.
Courtesy of Disney Research Zurich and ETH
The wall-climbing robot in action.

Meet VertiGo, a new four-wheeled robot that can easily roll from the ground onto a wall.

"VertiGo extends the ability of robots to travel through urban and indoor environments," according to a team from Disney Research Zurich and Swiss university EDH Zurich that unveiled the four-wheeled machine on Wednesday.

Here's the video:

It's the machine's pair of "tiltable propellers" that provide the thrust necessary to get onto the wall, the team says. Here's more:

"One pair of wheels is steerable, and each propeller has two degrees of freedom for adjusting the direction of thrust. ... The use of propellers to provide thrust onto the wall ensures that the robot is able to traverse over indentations such as masonry. The choice of two propellers rather than one enables a floor-to-wall transition — thrust is applied both towards the wall using the rear propeller, and in an upward direction using the front propeller, resulting in a flip onto the wall."

Disney Research member Paul Beardsley tells The Two-Way that the team is "pursuing possibilities for mobile robots in entertainment." He says "a wall-climbing robot could be used for visual effects, or could be physically styled in an entertaining way." Michael Bischoff of ETH adds that beyond entertainment, "things like industrial inspections could be possible with such a design."

The wall climber joins a number of other machines pushing the boundaries of the types of terrain robots can handle:

  • Water: This tiny robot, inspired by water-strider insects, can jump about 5 1/2 inches on water without sinking, Quartz reported. Here's a video of the South Korean-designed robot, released in July, in action:
  • Land: Boston Dynamics, a Google subsidiary, has introduced a series of four-legged, animal-inspired robots designed to navigate rough terrain. This is Spot, introduced earlier this year:
  • The U.S. military was testing a similar but larger four-legged robot from Boston Dynamics, which could carry about 400 pounds of supplies. However, Quartz reports that the military now says the robot would be too noisy for use on the front lines.

  • Sky: German firm Festo says it was "inspired by the herring gull" when it designed the SmartBird. This winged robot was released in 2011:
  • Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
    KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
    Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.