Robots have a long and hilarious history of fails. Case in point: the Dalek-like security robot who “committed suicide” a few months ago in Washington DC after stumbling down some steps into a fountain. Or, lest we forget, Canada’s hitchhiking robot that was decapitated and left in a ditch after two weeks in the US.
This is why robotics companies like Boston Dynamics have worked hard to develop robots that are able to stay upright and stabilize their movement even after a kick or a trip. However, this team of roboticists from the University of Tokyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries have accepted the clumsy disposition of current robots and started working on Robust Humanoid Robot, aka RHP2, a robot specifically designed to get back up again after a fall. Growth begins when we begin to accept our weaknesses, I guess.
You can watch the robot in action in the video below. As first reported by robotics blog IEEE Spectrum, a paper about this poor masochistic robot was presented at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems last week in Vancouver, where this year's theme was "Friendly People, Friendly Robots".
"Robots and humans are becoming increasingly integrated in various application domains," the event organizers explain. "We work together in factories, hospitals and households, and share the road. This collaborative partnership of humans and robots gives rise to new technological challenges and significant research opportunities in developing friendly robots that can work effectively with, for, and around people."
The researchers developed the human-sized bipedal robot to work for prolonged periods in hazardous areas, such as an industrial factory or a disaster site. It even has different suits it can wear according to an environment, like a Hazmat suit for a chemical spill or a flame-retardant suit for fires.
First of all, the RHP2’s body is specifically designed to endure a fall, with an armored metal frame and reinforced bits on the body parts that are most likely to sustain damage during a fall, namely knees, elbows, and other joints. It’s also designed to detect any occurrence of an error, find out an error recovery action, and correct itself to return to its original state. It’s still in its earlier stages of development, with its creators hoping to replace its electric motor muscles with hydraulic power to give it more oomph and to remove the power cord tether.
[H/T IEEE Spectrum]