8 SERVO 05/06.2018
Robotic Technology Goes Downhill
It’s official. The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang,
Korea, had the lowest viewership ever, down seven percent
from the 2014 Sochi, Russia event. Why did about 1.4
million former fans tune out? We might speculate that it
was because of NBC’s dearth of coverage on arguably the
most entertaining and interesting related event: the Ski
Robot Challenge, which took place at the Welli Hilli ski
resort on a nearby mountain.
Eight competitors vied for the $10,000 first place prize.
Each one was required to be humanoid in form, at least 50
cm ( 19. 7 in) tall, and equipped with both skis and poles.
The bots slipped down an 80 m (262 ft) slope and had to
slalom around a series of red and blue gates. All were fully
autonomous, although a run under remote control was also
included. The ski bots scored one point per passed gate,
and ties were to be broken by considering the fastest time.
It turns out that bots are pretty lousy skiers; one got
stuck in the snow, and another got tangled up in a net.
This could be because it was windy, and the sun was bright
enough to degrade vision system performance (or not). The
winner in the autonomous contest was Taekwon V from
Incheon-based Minirobot ( minirobot.co.kr).
The champ cleared all five gates in 18 seconds. Second
place was snared by SKIRO, built by the Korea Institute of
Robot and Convergence ( kiro.re.kr), which lagged four
seconds behind. SKIRO took first in the remote control
competition at 15. 31 seconds.
Although neglected by the networks, the event was
widely deemed a success. “I think in the future robots will
have their own Winter Games on the sidelines of the
Olympics held by humans,” said organizer Kim Dong-uk.
by Jeff and Jenn Eckert
Not a Party Anymal
Most of the scary-looking
robotic animals seem to come
from Boston Dynamics (e.g.,
BigDog), but ETH-Zurich
( www.ethz.ch) is an able rival.
Their latest development is
“Anymal:” a four-legged walking
robot designed to operate
autonomously in real world indoor
and outdoor environments.
The aim is to create a machine
that is effective and reliable
without having to change the
environment to accommodate it.
ETH imagines Anymal working in
search-and-rescue ops, industrial
inspection, and other tasks in
hazardous conditions or
Anymal has even demonstrated its ability to run, climb
stairs, use an elevator (with the help of a QR code), and
skate on four wheels.
It’s likely to be effective in
security applications as well, and if
one of them decides to chase you,
beware. It can go pretty much
anywhere you can, and track you
using microphones, thermal and
optical cameras, and self-contained
lighting. Even loaded with all this
equipment, it weighs only 30 kg
( 66 lb) and boasts a two hour
battery life. So, you’ll need to be
very agile and clever if you hope to
At this point, Anymal is still in
development. According to Remo
Diethelm, one of the machine’s
software developers, “The
hardware is available, but we need
to improve the algorithm so that
Anymal can move comfortably
across any terrain.”
Watch for it in oil and gas sites near you.
Anymal navigates most real world environments.
A competitor in the Ski Robot Challenge.