It seems that there are two kinds of animal-inspired robots. There's the terrifying, kind, which attacks its human master after bringing him a decoy beer, or chases him to exhaustion, sprinting faster than an Olympic champion. That market has been sewn up by the DARPA-funded, Google-owned Boston Dynamics.
Then there's the cute kind, which fills you with the same sense of awwwww as a GIF of bounding baby goats. That's the category that best suits the Ghost Minitaur, a four-legged robot that can run and jump over tricky terrain. Here it is in action:
Watch as it bounces across a parking lot. Thrill as it slowly scales a chain-link fence. Gasp as it effortlessly bounds up stairs, and freeze in unexpected fear as it leaps up and turns the handle of an office door before shoving its way inside.
The lightweight Minitaur has a simple Arduino brain and uses high-speed cameras to constantly monitor and adapt to the terrain. But perhaps best of all is the list of gaits of which this little cutie is capable: "bounding, pronking, walking, and trotting." Who knows what pronking might be? And who cares? It even sounds cute.
The Minitaur can be purchased, but it is neither cheap nor easily available. The robot was designed as a research platform, not a toy, and getting one of the limited-run 'bots will cost you around $10,000. That's not bad for a research lab, but a little steep if all you want is a clever pet.
Now, excuse me while I search for a video off a baby goat doing some pronking.
Have something to say about this article? You can email us and let us know. If it's interesting and thoughtful, we may publish your response.