Responding to a nuclear disaster is no job for humans. Even while wearing protective suits, our bodies can’t handle the radiation.
It could be a job for robots, though.
Researchers in the U.K. are developing a centaur-like robot designed to work in settings too dangerous for humans to navigate — and it could one day play a major role in disaster response efforts including nuclear catastrophes.
Steady and Skilled
On Tuesday, Horizon magazine published a story about the rugged robot, which goes by the name Centauro. The bot is just under 5 feet tall and weighs about 205 pounds. Its body is made of aluminum and other lightweight metals, while its skin is 3D-printed plastic.
As you’d expect from its moniker, Centauro bears a striking resemblance to a centaur, the mythological creature with the upper body of a human and the lower body of a horse. This quadrupedal design makes the robot more stable on its feet than if it were bipedal, researcher Sven Behnke told Horizon.
Each of Centauro’s four legs has a wheel where a foot — or hoof — would be. In tests designed to mimic real-world scenarios, the bot managed to climb stairs, navigate debris, and step over gaps. Each of its two arms has a multi-fingered hand with enough dexterity to unlock doors and operate power tools, among other tasks.
Centauro is partially autonomous — if instructed to move to a certain place, for example, it can figure out how to do so. However, most of its actions are dictated by a human controller who wears a head-mounted display that allows them to see everything the centaur-like robot sees.