The invention of the wheel some 4,000 years ago dramatically increased the rate at which human society evolved. It was so good that we’ve become so heavily dependant on it that without the notion of the wheel everything would grind to a halt - literally.
But there’s just something cool about trying to emulate nature’s more complex means of locomotion, like, say, legs. It’s been attempted for decades, but it’s only in recent years that legged robots have ceased being clumsy and limited and started being genuinely impressive (and potentially useful).
Boston Dynamics is at the forefront of legged robot development of both bipedal and quadrupedal robots. Recently, the company started lending out one of its bots it calls Spot to various companies (and media outlets) to see how they used it and what they made of it.
One Spot was featured on Adam Savage’s YouTube show Tested where it performed really well. It’s remarkable just how surefooted and able it really is and the prospects for how such a bot could be used are genuinely limitless.
Could it replace wheeled vehicles in some scenarios? Well, yes. How about one of these to carry your gear up a mountain, or transporting equipment on a building site (so you don’t have to do that in a full-sized truck). Such a legged robot would be well suited for traversing uneven terrain and carrying a load at the same time - plus it’s electric, so it doesn’t emit any nasty gasses.
What I’d personally like to see is this eventually result in the creation of a robotic horse that you could ride like an actual horse. Am I alone in thinking that would be a neat idea? Instead of taking the Jeep Wrangler or the Toyota Landcruiser out off-roading in the weekend, you would saddle up your robo-horse and be on your way.