NASA’s ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) is a one of a kind robot, considering its capabilities and the fact that it will be controlled with an Xbox or a Nintendo Wii.
This cool product, designed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA and found via Daily Mail, is yet another proof of how fast robotics advance. The progress, in this particular case, is not represented only by the multiple functions of the rover, but also by innovative way in which it is or it will be controlled. Chris McQuin, Task Manager and Engineering Team Lead at JPL, explained that this robot will be used for missions on the Moon, Mars and even on asteroids.
The ATHLETE rover features six legs, fact that can also be deduced from the acronym. However, the best thing about these six robotic limbs is that they are fully articulated, fact that allows the off-road ATHLETE rover to move without any problems on any type of terrain. In the case of this robot, The designers of the robot decided to test it in California, near the Dumont Dunes. As expected, ATHLETE did a great job in moving around on dessert terrain. As seen in the above picture, each of the limbs features a wheel, which is admittedly the best means of transportation on flat surfaces. However, in the above image, the robot is seen tackling an uneven and rough terrain. In order to make the rover more suitable for rough terrains, the engineers designed a locking system for each wheel.
The ones who are concerned about its physical dimensions should know that the ATHLETE rover measures 13 feet in height and tips the scale at not less than 5,000 pounds. In other words, this is not yet another multi-legged robot that people would risk misplacing in the bedroom. ATHLETE seems to be very good at lifting weights, as it can handle objects more than 6 times heavier than him, respectively 32,000 pounds. On other planets, sattelites or asteroids, there is no doubt that its ability to transport heavy containers or other objects would be highly appreciated.
The remote controllability is not that great at this moment, since this feature is still in the testing stage. Still, the future when big multi-legged robots capable of exploring rough terrains and of lifting very heavy weights will be controlled via such common gaming industry devices as Microsoft Kinect or Nintendo Wii does not seem to be very far away.Add to this spectacular future feature the fact that the ATHLETE is able to jump, climb, walk and even dance, and you have one of the most impressive robots that have ever been created.