Latest in Alt week

Image credit:

Alt-week 8.3.13: giant robot 'crabsters,' walking planes and a year on Mars


Alt-week takes a look at the best science and alternative tech stories from the last seven days.

We didn't intend for there to be a theme this week, but there is. It's been all about unusual craft this last seven days. Whether it's nature-inspired sea drones, interplanetary exploration, or walking planes, ground control isn't calling Major Tom, it's gone way weirder that. This is alt-week.

You'd hope that knocking those pesky drones out of the sky would be enough to keep you safe. Not if the folk at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, Lausanne, have anything to do with it. They've developed a flying robot called DALER (Deployable Air Land Exploration Robot) that can also walk. Instead of fixed wings, a system known as whegs means that upon landing, they unclip, and can rotate like paddles to create a walking motion. As you'll see from the video, it's not the most developed stride you'll see, but it's sophisticated enough to be able to handle different gaits, surfaces and obstacles. Not bad. The top speed on the ground might only be 0.2 miles an hour, but the design allows for the dual locomotion methods, with minimal addition to the platform, thus introducing barely any impact to the flight performance. What you see in the video is just the first prototype, but the team hopes its "Adaptive Morphology" approach could lead to flying robots with wings that adapt to various flying tasks -- forward motion, hovering and walking for example. Soon, there really will be no escape.

Altweek 8313 Crabster

It's the stuff of childhood dreams (or maybe that's just us,) -- a 1,300 pound sub-aquatic robo-crab. It also happens to be real, thanks to the work at the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology. The CR200 -- or "Crabster" -- project is an underwater vehicle with six legs (two complete with "claws,") held together by 30 joints. There's a front storage compartment, 10 optical cameras along with long-range sonar sensors. It takes a total of four people to control, with different pilots managing the walking, manipulators (what we're calling claws,) lights, and cameras. Crabster's advantage over other unmanned underwater vehicles is its lack of propeller, which stops it from dredging up muck from the ocean floor, improving visibility. The first underwater testing just took place, but the hope is CR200 could be useful for exploring shipwrecks in currents too strong for human divers.

A crab-like beast on the bottom of the ocean, that we can handle. But the surface of Mars? We're not sure anyone's ready for that. Curiosity rover on the other hand, is all good. It only seems like yesterday that it was making its treacherous journey down onto the red planet's surface, but in fact, it's just approaching its one year anniversary on our neighbor. A lot has happened over that period -- and that calls for a celebratory time-lapse video in our book. This time a whole two minutes of the best bits for you to enjoy.

[Image credit: IEEE Spectrum]

Seen any other far-out articles that you'd like considered for Alt-week? Working on a project or research that's too cool to keep to yourself? Drop us a line at alt [at] engadget [dot] com.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr