LimX Dynamics (逐际动力), a Chinese company making general-purpose legged robots, yesterday launched its first wheeled quadruped W1, with the aim to serve unmet needs in logistics, industrial inspection and STEM-related research.
Based on LimX Dynamics’ motion intelligence technology, W1 stands out for its perception and motion control algorithms, as well as multiple proprietary high-performing actuators.
It combines the advantages of legged and wheeled structures, enabling it with real-time terrain perception and all-terrain mobility.
According to a press release supplied by LimX Dynamics, this combination leads to “significant improvement in legged robots’ capability.”
“General-purpose legged robots are in a period of technological explosion, where the intersection of basic research and commercialization has emerged and continues to expand,” said Dr. Wei Zhang, founder of LimX Dynamics.
He explained that W1 came out “at an opportune time” as the company’s first flagship model and that it seeks to build an efficient universal chassis with all-terrain mobility.
As a veteran in robotic technologies, Zhang pins high hopes on W1. He credited it as a “ground-breaking product” that anchors the optimal intersection of technology, application and market moving forward.
“Through top-tier technology, we are able to solve long-standing problems that have plagued the deployment of many legged robots, allowing legged robots to truly enter the industry and create value,” Zhang noted.
With the launch of W1, LimX Dynamics aims to address customers’ pain points in B2B sectors such as industrial inspection, logistics and distribution, research and education, the release adds.
LimX Dynamics will start accepting pre-orders for W1 in the fourth quarter of this year.
Self-built actuators are a highlight of LimX Dynamics’ technologies, as they “maximize the integrated capabilities of legged and wheeled robots.”
The startup, founded only last year in the southern boomtown Shenzhen, said this attribute enables high-dynamic motion and all-terrain obstacle-overcoming abilities.
Therefore, W1 is more efficient and agile compared to the typical legged quadruped, and more suitable for most real-world application scenarios, the company said.
Equipped with perceptive locomotion algorithms, W1 is designed to navigate complex scenarios, including discrete terrains like stairs that prove daunting for its wheeled variants.
W1 is labeled as the first homemade wheeled quadruped capable of climbing and descending stairs through real-time gait planning and control.
Prior to introducing W1, LimX Dynamics tested its practicality in a variety of application scenarios.
During the test on motion control, built-in actuators unleashed sufficient torque for the wheel-legged creature to move up and down stairs. Meanwhile, the gadget maintained its stability thanks partly to perception algorithms.
While in action, the robot adjusted its position to stay parallel to both the slope and ground. It switched gait autonomously to traverse discrete terrains like curbs.
In the case of ground clearance, W1 lowered its height to glide beneath low barriers.
Even in the face of one-sided bridge, the robot learned and adapted to the terrain rather than vice versa.
Bumpy roads or gravel, slippery grounds are the terror of some quadrupeds, as they tend to get bogged down in these environments.
LimX Dynamics said these no-go zones hardly stop W1. When passing through these terrains, the contraption’s joints respond in unison to minimize external disruptions to its posture.
The device can choose by itself whether to step on or roll over gravel, combining the traversability of legged structures with the efficiency of wheeled equivalents.
Increased technical difficulty
Notwithstanding all the merits of a wheeled quadruped, big challenges remain, the most notable being increased technical difficulty associated with a wheel-and-leg configuration.
When perception interference, state estimation and motion control come together, problems arise.
In the absence of a mature solution worldwide, LimX Dynamics resolves to optimize the advantages of the composition of wheels and legs.
Its confidence hinges partly on previous academic and R&D experience in a variety of cutting-edge fields. They range from terrain perception, reinforcement learning and multi-rigid body dynamics to hybrid dynamics and model predictive control.
Staking its competitiveness on perception and motion control, LimX Dynamics has established an algorithm framework to integrate both, in a bid to achieve higher stability and stronger real-time control capabilities.
The firm is also working vigorously on real-time interaction between the robot and the environment it operates in.
This is vital to a shorter prototype-to-product process, it said in the official release.