Since I was a child of the 80’s, there has been speculation on when the cartoon Transformers would inspire real-life robotics experts to form a transforming bot, and Carnegie Mellon, competing for the $2m DARPA prize, has constructed the CHIMP to make dreams come true.
Part of the revolutionary university’s “Tartan Rescue” program gave birth to this robot that is capable of working on all four limbs with rotating treads as a tank, or climbing vertical ladders with its adept hands and Swiss-army-like knife parts (that can pop out of its arms and legs) as an ape-like being — or CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform (CHIMP).
This is not fiction, and this is not a cartoon.
As the DARPA Robotics Challenge calls for bots that can manipulate dangerous and toxic environments, like Japan’s Fukushima reactor and the British Petroleum (BP) Gulf oil spill, the CHIMP has risen to the challenge (literally onto two legs).
With four tank treads, four sets of hands, and four sets of tools at the end of each limb, the agile CHIMP can change according to the needs of the volatile surroundings with “near human strength and dexterity,” says NREC director and “Tartan Rescue” team leader Tony Stentz.
Though the appearance of … CHIMP, is vaguely simian, its normal mode of locomotion will be much like that of a tank, with the tracks of all four limbs on the ground. This configuration would offer a particular advantage when moving over debris and rough terrain. But CHIMP also can move on the treads of just two limbs when needed, such as when it must use one or more limbs to open a valve, or to operate power tools – Carnegie Mellon News
I implore you: what would H.G. Wells have said about this creature? Before we know it The Time Machine will become a reality too and film director Michael Bay will be out of business.
This bad little chimp uses sensors to render the shaky surroundings into texture-mapped 3D fields. A human operator (at least until the robot overthrow!) then uses the 3D mapping to decide whether to utilize the bot manually or allow CHIMP to work on his own autonomously.
And what’s more? CHIMP has opposable thumbs just like a real primate — its just a matter of time.