They grow up so fast, don't they? It was just a few years ago that HECTOR the stick bug robot was little more than a twinkle in Bielefeld University's eye, and it's already taking its first steps. Okay, so this isn't quite a tear-jerking moment, but it's still an important achievement in robotics. As you'll see in the video below, all of HECTOR's six insect-like legs move independently while reacting to unexpected changes in terrain. They shift to maintain balance on slippery ground, and raise themselves above small obstacles the moment they sense resistance.
HECTOR is just a proof of concept for now, so he won't be crawling outside of a lab any time soon -- probably a good thing, since he doesn't have eyes. Bielefeld already has a prototype with two cameras and "feelers," though, so there's a real possibility that you'll see this machine get around on its own by the time a planned 2017 upgrade arrives. If everything goes smoothly, this project could pave the way for autonomous cargo haulers, extraterrestrial rovers and other robots that can't always count on a stable footing.