This robot dog climbs a ladder like a sloth climbs a tree, slow limb after slow limb pulling its bulk into place. Credit: Tokyo Metropolitan University.

It’s a police hostage situation, and things are tense. Lives are at stake.

A wall separates police from the hostages, and someone has to peak over that wall to take a look and report back with a live POV video stream.

What do you do then?

You call on a robotic dog that can climb ladders, that’s what!

Thanks to the scientists at Tokyo Metropolitan University, this particular robot is a quadruped that transitions from horizontal movement on four legs to climb vertically by gripping the rungs of a ladder, C4ISR.NET reported.

It is a slower, more deliberate process than one might imagine, with machine vision processing space and gripper arms slowly finding their hold.

It is perhaps all the more haunting that it is so slow. If it were an animated achievement, a work of cinematic fiction, the robot would be effortless, a comfortable distance from reality.

Instead, this robot dog climbs a ladder like a sloth climbs a tree, slow limb after slow limb pulling its bulk into place. Even sped up, the climbing process in the video drags on and on. Such in the nature of a proof-of-concept, a slow shambling movement with hints of future potential.

The robot research was presented at the 2019 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

Published as “A Novel Capability of Quadruped Robot Moving Through Vertical Ladder Without Handrail Support,” a glimpse of the results can be found at IEEE Spectrum.

The ways humans can use a robot dog that climbs ladders is limited, broadly, to the number of spaces one can imagine moving on both feet and ladders, plus the ultimate speed of the robot.

Moving through built spaces rendered unsafe for humans, like damaged nuclear power plants, say, a ship on fire, or a police standoff situation, are some of the more obvious uses.

Applied to the same advances as other robotic dog-like squadmates, a robot could accompany assaults or explorations over walls at the behest of human guides.

A wall may be an ancient form of defense, but the sight of a robot dog climbing a ladder over a wall, and then barreling down on the defenders behind it, is an undeniably modern phenomena.

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