Oussama Khatib and Shu-Yun Chung have brought us the SupraPed. Khatib and Chung, researchers at Stanford, are working on a system to allow bipedal robots extra stability by giving them a pair of walking sticks. Unlike us weak humans, however, the robots will bend and twist in all sorts of ways to get across chasms or over large obstacles.
Why do you need a humanoid robot? Presumably because other types – wheeled, tank-treaded, or airborne – would be too difficult to deploy. It would also allow the robot to use both its specialized hands in a tricky, messy zone (after it had put away its walking staves, that is). Plus it’s also cool to see a robot with walking sticks.
You can read more about the robots in Khatib and Chung’s paper. They presented the paper at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Hong Kong.