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Experts have been working for years to create legged robots, but they seem to still be weak, slow, inefficient, or fragile to take over tasks that involve heavy payloads. To tackle this challenge, a team of researchers from the Robotic Systems Lab at ETH Zurich has developed Barry.

Barry is a dynamically balancing quadruped robot that is optimized for high payload capabilities and efficiency, promising to help humans tackle challenging manual work. The robot’s new leg design ensures it can handle unmodeled payloads of up to 90 kg while operating at high efficiency.

According to Interesting Engineering, Barry’s impressive payload capacity is made possible by its customized actuators- while conventional approaches to developing powered robotic joints typically involve selecting the smallest motor capable of meeting peak power requirements, Barry takes a different approach by prioritizing motor efficiency.

The study’s first author Giorgio Valsecchi explains that the optimal solution is to employ the largest motor possible. This might seem counterintuitive, but larger motors prove to be more efficient, consuming less energy while accomplishing the same tasks- a design philosophy that results in a robot with enhanced payload capabilities and a reduced cost of transport.

The team reportedly sees vast commercial potential and various possible applications for Barry, including transporting raw materials on construction sites to enhance safety and productivity, or carrying equipment in search and rescue operations to relieve rescuers of excessive loads.

Barry does currently have limitations in perception, but the researchers reportedly plan to address this by focusing on enabling the robot to intelligently navigate obstacles and complex terrain.

The details regarding the team’s study were published in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.