In 2022, it seems like all kinds of events are finding their feet again—not the least of which was the 2022 International Robot Exhibition. Why are we telling you about it? As you’re probably aware, motorcycles are only part of Kawasaki’s overall business. While we’ve previously seen Honda also showcase its robotics work (surely you remember Asimo), Honda was more into humanoid robots.
Kawasaki, though? Not so much. Kawasaki didn’t go the Boston Dynamics robot dog route, either. Instead, it plowed full steam ahead into robot goat territory—although as you’ll see in the video, it hasn’t quite reached the level of ‘greatest of all time’ (at least, not yet). To be completely specific, Kawi created a robot ibex, which it very sensibly called Bex for short.
From March 9 through 11, 2022, Kawasaki showcased a handful of projects its robotics division has been working on. The Robust Humanoid Platform—or RHP—has so far yielded RHP Bex, as well as two types of RHP Kaleido, a humanoid robot that’s now in its seventh generation. One version has a carrying capacity of up to 60 kilograms (or 132 pounds), as well as three-fingered hands that allow it to grip with a force of 40 kg (or 88 pounds). Kawasaki envisions Kaleido coming in handy in dangerous, tricky, and/or high-altitude situations that would be more dangerous for humans. A second version is capable of jumping, which suggests interesting future possibilities.
Gallery: Kawasaki RHP Bex
A smaller humanoid robot called RHP Friends is made to work in narrower spaces, hence its more compact size. It has eyes, and more of a humanoid look to its face. Kawasaki envisions it in long-term care scenarios, pushing wheelchairs and dancing with the elderly. Finally, Kawasaki also introduced Nyokkey, a robot with a flat-screen digital face, long arms and neck, and vacuum-cleaner-esque rolling base. Nyokkey is intended to do service-type tasks, such as bringing restaurant customers meals, shuttling medicines back and forth, or perhaps luggage. In other words, the Kawasaki robotics team has been busy.
Now that you have some context for Bex’s introduction, let’s talk more about it. RHP Bex can walk—albeit at an almost painfully slow speed—on its four legs. It can also kneel down and roll, because its knees have wheels. When it does this, two more armatures with the drive wheels swing down in its belly region, so Bex can roll around as needed.
Bex can carry 100 kg, or about 220 pounds. That means, as you can see in the video, that a human can ride Bex—and in fact, Bex comes with handlebars and controls for a human to do just that. In a second video, you can see that Bex is easily outfitted with a cargo rack, so it can haul items around for humans as needed.
While the demonstration videos show Bex operating at an almost painfully slow speed, it’s not clear whether that is, in fact, Bex’s top speed. Also, although we certainly wouldn’t expect a Bex H2R experience anytime soon, since the RHP Kaleido is already on its seventh generation, it’s clear that Kawasaki isn’t afraid to keep iterating within its robotics development. Bex’s separate quadriped and wheeled functions—when combined with its practical carrying abilities—make it an interesting idea for the agricultural and industrial applications Kawasaki is aiming for.
Sources: IEEE Spectrum, PC Watch