Michigan Robotics’ latest member arrived last week in a black plastic case about two feet to a side, buried beneath a layer of foam cubes and crouched on a metal calibration stand.

The latest model, dubbed Cassie Blue by the Michigan team, has control over two more joints in each leg – motors for hip rotation and at the ankle for extra stability.

Not only do these give Cassie the potential to be better at the independent walking pioneered by its predecessor, MARLO, but it opens a host of new possibilities. Jessy Grizzle, the director of Michigan Robotics and the Elmer G. Gilbert Distinguished University Professor of Engineering, is especially interested in mounting a camera on Cassie and incorporating fast image processing on its extra chip, enabling the robot to use video to identify large changes in terrain visually.

This, Grizzle says, will prepare Cassie for Michigan’s “robot torture track” – the art installation known as the Wave Field. The field of three-foot earthen mounds totally destroyed one of MARLO’s knees last summer when the robot stepped blindly from the top of one hillock into the ditch.

“You’ve seen kids running freely over the Wave Field?” Grizzle asked. “That’s what this robot should be able to do.”