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Daily Telegraph - 29 September 1990 p7

Walkover for robot in the 3-metre dash

By Christine McGourty
Technology Correspondent

THE world's fastest two-legged robot took a gold medal yesterday at the First International Robot Olympics in Glasgow after covering the three-metre course in less than a minute.

Its "coach", Mr Paul Channon, of the University of Wales, said there was some way to go before robotic bipeds could match humans. The Olympic winner's top speed is under 1mph.

"It might be possible to match human speed within 10 years," Mr Channon said. "The technology is almost there."

The bi-ped swings along slowly from one foot to the other with sensors measuring the position and motion of each joint. "It stiffens the muscles in the legs if there's more weight on one foot than the other in an attempt to stay upright," he said.

The bi-ped flat race was more harmonious than others. Portsmouth Polytechnic's Robug wall-climbing robot was disqualified for attempting to squash its Russian opponent.

The multipede flat race was won by 20-year-old Penelope from Edinburgh University. With eight legs, she was the oldest and least sophisticated piece of metal in the race, but reached 0.13 metres per second, leaving the competition standing.

The oldest competitor in the Olympics took the gold medal in the javelin event. The 145-year-old wooden Japanese archer from the Museum of Automata in York threw tiny darts a distance of 3.38 metres.

Lord Balfour of Burleigh, chairman of the Turing Institute which organised the Olympics, said at the prize giving that the standard was "enormously encouraging".

"But we still have a very long way to go before we have intelligent robots," he added.

Overall winner of the Olympics was Yamabico from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, for its expertise in avoiding all obstacles put in its way.

A technology transfer award from the National Westminster Bank went to an electronic robot from the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, designed to collect samples on the moon and Mars.