Kawasaki unveils robot ibex to transport people, building materials

Kawasaki's rideable robot ibex
It has been designed to operate on vastly different terrains. Photo credit: Supplied / Kawasaki

When futurists started thinking about what personal transport would look like years down the line, flying cars and jetpacks were undoubtedly popular options.

It's unlikely any of them pictured a giant robot ibex carrying people around.

Yet that's exactly what Japanese giants Kawasaki have created with their multi-purpose RHP Bex robot.

The company unveiled Bex for the first time at the International Robot Exhibition (iREX) in Japan last week, with a woman perched on its back.

As well as walking with its legs outstretched, the robot goat also operates on its knees, with wheels providing the drive when it is bent down.

In an interview with the Kawasaki Robotics website, Masayuki Soube, who is in charge of development, said Bex was designed for the ultimate versatility, with wheels for smoother surfaces and legs for moving on rough terrain.

The company is using the walking technology it designed for humanoid robots for its quadruped walking robot, it said.

However it's not clear if the metal ibex will ever be used long term for transporting humans as it was demonstrated at iREX.

"First of all, it is assumed to be lightly portable, such as transporting materials at a construction site," Soube said.

"We are currently developing with the goal of carrying 100kg."

It can also be used for inspection purposes with Bex able to look around and send images back to operators to show readings on instruments, for example.

Bex can carry crops harvested by humans on farms too, Soube said.

However it's unlikely any Bex robot wandering around a construction site is going to have the ibex horns and handlebars the demonstration version had.

"While the base is a humanoid robot, the upper body of Bex is not fixed and we are thinking of adapting it according to the application," he said.

"Kawasaki Heavy Industries will focus on the four legs of the lower body and want to provide it as an open innovation platform."

That will allow those who want a Bex robot to partner with the company to define how they want the top part to look and operate.

Last year Chinese electric car manufacturer XPeng announced it was planning to release a robotic unicorn that works as a virtual pet and a ride for children.

The robot recognises objects, tracks targets and avoids obstacles in its path, while including emotional interactions and interpreting body language.

No pricing or release window have been revealed for Bex or the robot unicorn yet.