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Meet LocoMan, the quirky robot dog that can stand up on its hind legs like a meerkat and play with objects

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Scientists have developed a quadrupedal robot that can use its two front legs to pick up and handle objects while walking on its hind ones. 

Quadrupedal robots usually take the form of robot dogs, including Boston Dynamics' Spot. They can walk over challenging terrain at speed and usually have low centers of gravity. Most object-manipulating quadrupeds have two additional arms that can  pick up and carry objects — meaning they have six "limbs" in total. 

But the "LocoMan," robot is unique because it can transition from its all-fours stance to a standing pose and use its two front legs to manipulate objects. The scientists outlined how the robot worked in a study posted March 27 to the arXiv preprint server.  

The "LocoMan," robot is unique because it can transition from its all-fours stance to a standing pose and use its two front legs to manipulate objects. (Image credit: Changyi Lin/Carnegie Mellon University)

“In this paper, we present LocoMan, a novel approach that enhances the manipulation dexterity of quadrupedal robots through the integration of designed lightweight loco-manipulators, expanding their operational workspace and enabling precise control over complex 6D manipulation tasks,” the scientists said in the paper. 

The LocoMotion

The design combines the mobility of a quadruped with the functionality of "manipulators" which, in this case, refers to hand-like parts on the robot that can control or handle an object. The key here is that the ability to handle objects has been developed without compromising the agility of LocoMan. 

However, its multifunctional legs also demonstrated versatility across challenging environments, such as confined spaces and rocky terrain. with the robot showcasing accurate and stable movements during tasks that required “intricate dual-arm coordination.” This sets LocoMan apart from other quadrupedal robots.

Related: Watch a 'robot dog' scramble through a basic parkour course with the help of AI

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