A research group at Osaka University, led by Professor Masayoshi Arai, developed a six-legged robot, with design features borrowed from insects.
The robot walks on six legs, and it can use two legs as arms when needed, so it can pick up things and carry it around. The omnidirectional robot, known as Asterisk, is one design of many that the researchers have, including models with wheel-tipped legs for faster movement, some which can climb up mesh walls and even let out a web-like rope for abseiling down to the ground.
Asterisk gets a handle on its environment through the use of several different types of feedback: the tips of all the limbs sport pressure sensors; three of which have infrared sensors, an accelerometer and three CCD cameras round out is senses. On a single charge of its 14.4 V lithium polymer battery, the 4kg "robo-bug" can do its thing for about 15 minutes. No doubt longer function time is in the works...
Currently, Asterisk can walk up to 0.5m/sec or roll on wheel-equipped legs, recognise stairs, pick up objects ("prey") with two of its six legs, safely push a polygonal prism load, avoid obstacles and even do cartwheels!
Check out the video below to see the Asterisk in action at the 2011 International Robot Exhibition.