Lemur, developed at Stanford University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, is a prototype for a fully autonomous rock climber. It can already follow a human climber up an irregular surface without any guidance.
The Lemur’s technology could find search and rescue applications on Earth and allow planetary exploration to access the sides of cliffs to look at the geology on Mars.
While other climbing robots scale flat structures using suction cups or magnets for grip, Lemur climbs uneven geological surfaces.
For the moment Lemur cannot “see” its footholds, a computer model of the wall, containing coordinates of the footholds, has to be fed into its onboard computer. From this it figures out an ideal route up and the best way to manoeuvre itself for each step of the ascent.
But the goal is for Lemur to read a scene and calculate its own path up a cliff. The route would be modified as it climbed, using information from its own video cameras and touch sensors.
Details in New Scientist.