Google's latest two-legged robot is more impressive than it looks

Schaft robots
The new Schaft robots shown off in Japan.

It's hard to keep up with everything Google is doing nowadays, not least because Google is now a smaller company inside the much bigger Alphabet. Earlier this month we got news that Alphabet is preparing to sell Boston Dynamics, its most well-known robotics firm.

Well, Alphabet (Google) doesn't have all its robot eggs in one basket: the company also owns Schaft, a robotic lab created at the University of Tokyo, and that particular firm has been showing off its wares at the 2016 New Economic Summit in Japan.

The slowly lumbering bipedal creation - as yet unnamed - that was demoed doesn't look too innovative at first glance, but getting robots to walk across rooms and up and down stairs is actually a major challenge, one the team at Schaft seem to be relishing.

Walking this way

So, what exactly does the robot do? Well, walk around without losing its balance for a start. On top of that, it's able to carry weights of up to 60 kg, navigate across multiple types of terrain and even vacuum surfaces with its feet.

A spokesperson told IEEE Spectrum that the newly unveiled bot isn't "a product announcement or indication of a specific product roadmap" so take it for what it is - the latest example of the progress engineers are making with robots that can do our walking and carrying for us.

One of the best parts of the short presentation made at the conference was when the robot kept its balance while slipping on a metal rod - already better than an AT-ST Walker on Endor then. And of course, a complete absence of laser guns and an AI-powered brain has to be good for the continuing survival of the human race.

Header image courtesy of @RakutenToday.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.