Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Animal Robots

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the this-means-something dept.

Robotics 114

hamlet2600 writes "The New York Time is running an article all about how animal like robots [Soul Sucking registration required] are beginning to become more imporant in furthering research. For years reseachers have been trying to make humanoid robots, Honda's ASIMO, MIT's M2 are some notable ones. It seems that more and more researchers are turning to the animal kingdom for "simpler" means of locomotion."

cancel ×

114 comments

Look, mommy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10264903)

My very first post!!

So they don't poop. (-1, Troll)

underpar (792569) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264915)

Why not just buy a dog?

Re:So they don't poop. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10264946)

I wonder what'll happen when a kid tries to give one of these things a bath.

Or the parents for that matter.

Re:So they don't poop. (1)

Veldcath (591080) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266485)

I don't see how this is a concern... When was the last time you saw a kid WANT to give a pet a bath?

Re:So they don't poop. (1)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266688)

Um, a few days ago when my kids asked me if we could 'give the kittens a bath'...

Re:So they don't poop. (2, Insightful)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264961)

Why not just buy a dog?

1.Robots don't shit or piss all over your new carpet.

2.Robots don't chew your leather couch.

3.Robots don't hump your leg (well, maybe with some creative mods they might).

4.Robots don't need to be fed.

5.Robots don't need to go to the vet.

6.If you go on vacation, you can leave the robot wherever.

I would wager, however, that a robotic dog would be quite a bit less effective in attracting ladies.

Re:So they don't poop. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10264985)

Yes but the head mounted camera could get some interesting shots of the ladies. :P

Re:So they don't poop. (2, Insightful)

jmcmunn (307798) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265019)


Yeah, well you just described everything about a dog. Except you left out the companionship they provide. I agree, if you are too lazy to feed, walk, and clean up after the animal then don't get one get a robot. I just hope you never have kids, better buy robot children instead.

Re:So they don't poop. (2, Interesting)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265134)

Oh, don't worry, I have a dog (I adopted him from a shelter). Dogs end up at places like that because it is a lot of work to own one. I know there are a ton of people who are not responsible enough to own them, and maybe a robot dog would be a nice alternative for said people.

Re:So they don't poop. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265106)

1. Neither does a dog kept outside.

2. Neither does a dog kept outside.

3. Neither does a dog kept in a location you don't visit.

4. Neither does a dog.

5. Neither does a dog.

6. You can leave a dog in the same place when you go on vacation too.

Of course, it wouldn't live very long, but who gives a fuck, it's just a dog.

Re:So they don't poop. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265108)

"I would wager, however, that a robotic dog would be quite a bit less effective in attracting ladies."

Well, unless ofcourse it's a very very expensive shiny red convertible robotic dog.

Re:So they don't poop. (1)

mindriot (96208) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265185)

4.Robots don't need to be fed.

Yes they do. Only instead of dog food it's electricity.

Re:So they don't poop. (1)

Kehvarl (812337) | more than 9 years ago | (#10267441)

or flies

Re:So they don't poop. (1)

Ignignot (782335) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265334)

a robotic dog would be quite a bit less effective in attracting ladies.

What about robot ladies??? Rowr!

Re:So they don't poop. (1)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265397)

Good call! However, how do they get...errr...moist w/o damaging circuits? :)

Re:So they don't poop. (1)

Ignignot (782335) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265545)

They've always used two fluids - motor oil and rubbing alcohol, depending on the part of the robot body.

Re:So they don't poop. (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265461)

4 and 5 are completely false statements. A robot consumes electricity, so its battery need to be recharged. Statement 5 assumes your robot will never ever break. If a dishwasher can break, I think it's highly presomputous to said a robot will not. And the repair bill is likely to be big.

But, anyway, let us assume they are all true. Why would you like to have a pet robot? Because, it seems obvious if you just don't want to dress and care your pet cat or dog, you just don't need a pet cat, dog or robot.

Re:So they don't poop. (2, Insightful)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265558)

4 and 5 are completely false statements. A robot consumes electricity, so its battery need to be recharged. Statement 5 assumes your robot will never ever break. If a dishwasher can break, I think it's highly presomputous to said a robot will not. And the repair bill is likely to be big.

If you dont feed a dog, he will die. If you do not recharge a robot, you have no active robot for a day.

You take a dog to the vet at times whether he needs it or not (heartworm and flea checks, etc). You'd take a robot to the repair depot if it breaks.

Re:So they don't poop. (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265636)

Oh! And I forgot to say number 6 is also false, don't leave your pet robot paid a few thousands boxes anywhere you wish and unlocked in your house if you don't want it to be stolen. So, rent a safe at the bank for it while on vacations.

Who do you want to attract? (2, Funny)

underpar (792569) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265587)

"I would wager, however, that a robotic dog would be quite a bit less effective in attracting ladies."

That's what I'm saying. Bring puppy to the park and you attract girls. Bring a robot and you attract nerds.

Re:Who do you want to attract? (1)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265693)

I would think that maybe even nerds would give you funny looks if you had a robot on a leash. :)

Be nice. (1)

underpar (792569) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265411)

I'm not a troll! I'm just impulsive. I think my real live dog is much more entertaining than a robot. I mean, can you get a robot drunk? Can you?

Re:Be nice. (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265792)

I agree with you, where can we meet?

Well (1, Funny)

illuminata (668963) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264917)

You could model robots after sheep. That would make the question of "Do androids dream of electric sheep?" a bit more complex.

Yet again, there's another question that would deserve an answer. Do engineers get lonely like farmers do?

Re:Well (1)

mikael (484) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266248)

You could model robots after sheep. That would make the question of "Do androids dream of electric sheep?" a bit more complex.

Would the question then become "Do android sheep dream of electricity?"

Missing option... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10264926)

Robotic penguin anyone?

Re:Missing option... (3, Interesting)

jstave (734089) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265086)

Check out this [sciencenews.org] article in Science News recently. They're investigating the way various aquatic animals move through the water. One of these is, in fact, the penguin, for its agility and manuverability in the water.

The Most Amazing Humanoid Robot... (1)

geordie_loz (624942) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265517)

The most amazing one I've seen was linked to by Nat Friedman in his weblog.. it's by sony [sony.net] , and called QRIO meaning curiosity.

This thing looks like a small child and seems pretty inteligent.. My wife said she wan't to take one home and love it to bits (she's a bit broody at present), me.. I'd love to teach it to fetch my beer..

Re:Missing option... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265690)

See conversational Penguin robot [merl.com] .

Re:Missing option... (1)

oever (233119) | more than 9 years ago | (#10267500)

robotic urang utang [cyberlife-research.com]

There's a good book [plus.com] on it's development.

Missing feature (1, Funny)

Zorilla (791636) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264933)

I await the day when they add the ability for the robot dogs to sniff each other's power supply when they meet.

Re:Missing feature (1, Funny)

forsythe450 (571527) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264984)

Hopefully they'll also be able to lick their own dongle.

Let's not forget (0)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264937)

For years reseachers have been trying to make humanoid robots, Honda's ASIMO, MIT's M2 are some notable ones.

Let's not forget the AWESOM-O 4000

Re:Let's not forget (0, Offtopic)

AlphaJoe (798014) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265292)

Let's not forget the AWESOM-O 4000

sweet...

Re:Let's not forget (0)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265326)

Glad someone understood the damned reference! Thank you!

Re:Let's not forget (1)

ares284 (782465) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266397)

hella-sweet!

you deserve a better score than that, i choked on a mt. dew while reading that haha

LEGO Mindstorms are instructive too ... (2, Informative)

YetAnotherName (168064) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264945)

My daughter and I came to the same conclusion as the researchers in this article: after struggling to make a biped robot with LEGO Mindstorms [mindstorms.com] robotics for quite some time, we found that a six-legged ant was much simpler.

Re:LEGO Mindstorms are instructive too ... (1)

cL0h (624108) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264979)

What about a no legged slug. Doesn't do much but a lot easier to implement.
(This post sounds like one of our design meetings)

Re:LEGO Mindstorms are instructive too ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265055)

I'd love to give his daughter a no-legged yougurt-spitting trouser slug.

toys will be awesome (2, Interesting)

abaybas (630833) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264950)

When I think about it, my kids will most probably be playing with animated robotic Barbies, GIJoes, and T-Rex's. Man am I jealous..

Always at Neuroscience (3, Interesting)

Gargon the Rat (414111) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264951)

Every neuroscience conference I go to has at least one or two animal like robots.

Re:Always at Neuroscience (2, Funny)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264980)

Every neuroscience conference I go to has at least one or two animal like robots.

So does Toys 'R Us.

and probably also (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265152)

at least one psych grad working behind the counter...

Re:Always at Neuroscience (2, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265146)

Were their papers and presentations any good?

Re:Always at Neuroscience (1)

Gargon the Rat (414111) | more than 9 years ago | (#10267112)

Usually the presentations are good, I'm not enough of a robot guy to look up the papers whenever they come out. One poaster at Neuroscience, I think two years ago, had a cockroach robot that was particularly memorable. They basically had no controler. The legs just took steps, flailing away as if in forward walking. The thing seemed to do 'behave' in the same way as a real cockroach over scaled obsticles. The point being perhapse the CNS or even the walking CPG was only concerned with direction and not the details.

I didnt read the article (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10264958)

And I dont plan to :P

Interesting (3, Funny)

Marco_polo (160898) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264959)

Would the robot pets 'download' onto your carpet when you aren't home?

Re:Interesting (1)

DrInequality (521068) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265009)

My girlfriend's cat 'uploads'.

DOH!

Plz hlep! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10264963)

I sent this to their webmaster:

I find it somewhat humorous that on this page:
http://www.microsoft.com/seminar/events/security.m spx [microsoft.com]

the photo you use is that of a Macintosh PowerBook G4 15" (with the Apple logo on the back of the screen Photoshop-ed out), on a page about security summits and programs. While I don't want to get into a pissing contest about which OS is more secure, it's mildly humorous to find a Mac being used to advertise Microsoft's security, even if it is subtle.

Respectfully,
Andy Ringsmuth



I'll try and keep an eye on it and see if they decide to change the photo..... http://www.macslash.com/ [macslash.com]

Why does it have to be snakes? (3, Informative)

rotorhead (528800) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264976)

Snake robots have been around for some time www.snakerobots.com/main.htm

Re:Why does it have to be snakes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265007)

I for one welcome our new robotic overlords.

Karma whoring! (2, Informative)

martingunnarsson (590268) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265076)

Clickable link [snakerobots.com] .

Completely OT, but amusing (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10264987)

I'm reading the headlines at Yahoo News and see this one
Intel Officials Have Bleak View for Iraq (AP)
My thought:
I didn't know the chipmaker was involved in Iraq...oh wait they are talking about the CIA type Intel--time for coffee

sensors and subprocessors. (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 9 years ago | (#10264995)

problem is that they have YET to design a sensor like our inner-ear to detect balance and orientation.

even animals have this "sensor" and the subprocessor systems to not tip over when a leg is lifted before the main processor can detect the change and ask for a balance correction.

too many projects are looking at monolithic processing, which can not handle a complex thing like walking and balance like an organism can.

Think about this, an animal like a dog or housecat is certianly not designed to use stairs, yet they adapt quite easily and quickly to handle them even though they were designed for human motion. A dog's rear leg has extremely limited motion compared to a human leg, yet they adapt to running up a stairwell quite easily, and some dogs can adapt to the point that they can climb a ladder!

MIT had a great program going about 15 years ago about seperating all robotic motion out to seperate processors and allow the main processor to issue interrupts to cause different motion, but I haven't heard from anyone in that program for a really long time. Anyone know if the program is still going?

yes (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265039)

they gave up on all that computer stuff (too hard, fuck it) and began investigating putting a human inside them

they couldnt get it to work at first, but then they tried using jews and it went well, they just have to dangle a gold coin in front of it and it walks forwards

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (4, Informative)

Omega697 (586982) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265102)

problem is that they have YET to design a sensor like our inner-ear to detect balance and orientation. It's called an accelerometer, and not only have they designed it, but they have it in the Sony AIBOs that we use for RoboCup soccer. I'm not saying they're perfect, or even that we know how to use the information from them very effectively. But they do exist.

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (1)

Josh Booth (588074) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265159)

I suppose the problem is simulating the entire body with a model in the computer. Animals know how their bodies work very well because when they were young they learned. We have quite a good model of ourselves in our heads so that we can move our foot without looking at it. This model allows us to just know where to put our foot if we are unladen or carrying something since we have done both and know how to do it.

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265232)

no, it is not.

an acelerometer can not detect rotation like the inner ear can nor can it reliably and with extreme precision detect acceleration in 3 axis.

your ear can detect acceleration in very VERY minute detail, along with anlge of tilt as well as rotation.

Granted prolonged rotation confuses the sensor.

I've messed with accelerometers, they are way too low resolution and limited. and the highest resolution and sensitivity units are so expensive that amost all robotics projects do not use them.

The inner ear is more than an accelerometer. plus, it's only one sensor in a group of sensors that animals and humans use for balance.

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265422)

Experiment with trying to walk in a straight line while looking straight up...

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265522)

you need to do that outdoors with no visual cues.
I can walk perfectly looking straight up in the office or wearhouse. There are lots of straight lines for me to visually cue on.

There's another sensor, visual cues. Making a robotic humanoid is pretty much doomed. have all the subprocesses talk to a seperate "balance" subprocessor to process data from the balance sensors, the camera inputs, the pressure and contact sensors on the walking appendages and do autonomous control of the balancing motors and appendage motors?

Yikes. it would have to control motors in the legs, feet, toes, arms hands and torso. I can imagine needing at least 30 axis of control to balance very well on a biped, and i am probably underestimating.

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265727)

I think about it a lot, and I think you can simplify it a lot.

Make you legs straight and stiff, and walk on the balls of your feet. You can do reasonably well, and the only motors there are the ones in your thighs hmm plus the rest of your upper body for balancing.

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265572)

Then the answer is clear: get a melon-baller, shove it into an ear, shove the contents into QRIO or ASIMO or some such thing, and watch the results. It's called enginieering people, read a book.

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266834)

The inner ear may be more sensitive than accelerometers but it's only a matter of time before that is not true. Perhaps there is however something to what you say. A sphere half (or less) filled with mercury (or another conductive liquid) with many contacts around its inside, pairs of which are scanned rapidly, could be a very effective sensor for detecting rotation.

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (1)

Xeo2 (301694) | more than 9 years ago | (#10267617)

I used a $3k 6-axis accelerometer on a robotics project this summer that works just dandy. And "expensive" is a relative term.

Re:Obligatory Segway Reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265809)

While not a robot, I am fairly certain that Segways incorporate a gyroscopic balancing system to remain upright on two wheels. That is the key to their movement as well. When a rider shifts their mass forward, the Segway rolls in that direction to bring the center of mass back to center. Same concept when leaning to the left or right to cause a turn.

Would this not be a natural starting place to develop an inner ear simulating device? JMTC

Re:sensors and subprocessors. (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 9 years ago | (#10267105)

problem is that they have YET to design a sensor like our inner-ear to detect balance and orientation.

Wrong. Buy a small INS here. [xbow.com] There are standard units that contain three accelerometers and three rate gyros (one for each axis), which is what you need. They're getting smaller; 1 cubic inch units with all six sensors are available, and a single-chip version has been prototyped.

Most serious robotics projects today have one of these. They're not good enough for navigation by themselves, but they can provide attitude info just fine.

The basic way you figure out "down" is by using the accelerometers for the long-term component and the rate gyros for short-term corrections. You do lose accurate "down" if you go round and round in a circle for a while. Some aircraft artificial horizons have that problem.

Are these really the first? (-1, Troll)

p0 (740290) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265000)

If these are the first 'animal' robots, what the hell was Al Gore?

Go Go Power Rangers!! (1)

Jakhel (808204) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265027)

Hey, as long as these robotic animals are capable of combining to form a gargantuan bipedal kung-fu-master warbot (beowulf cluster anyone?) that can be piloted by a group of 5 uber-moral teenagers I'm all for it. 2004 and we're closer to getting robotic animals than we are to getting flying cars..I feel so jipped.

Organic power sources (3, Funny)

jstave (734089) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265029)

All they have to do is combine these concepts with the Robot that eats flies [slashdot.org] and we'll have invented the toad!

Just think, the article's mention of that Disney robot dinosaur:

...nine-foot dinosaur robot named Lucky that sometimes roams the Disney theme parks.
...could have the phrase "...eating the occasional visitor." added to it.

Animals don't like robots (1, Interesting)

nanojath (265940) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265044)

When I first read the article description I thought it said a NY Times article "all about how animalS like robots," and I thought, well that's BS - my friends have a roomba and their dog HATES and FEARS that thing. Whenever it goes into action it's total stress (and barking) time.

Re:Animals don't like robots (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265160)

I've always been curious about the interaction, or lack of interaction, betwean cats dogs and a new aibo. I've never seen mention of it by an owners though, suggesting that it might fall more into the lack of interaction catagory than the hilarious section.

Re:Animals don't like robots (1)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266619)

The problem with getting an animal to react with something mechanical is that, despite dogs generally being quite 'stupid', they can tell if something's alive or not.

It really sucks, but to even remotely make an aibo 'real' to a dog, you'd have to give it fur, a distinctive smell, an arsehole (all a dog wants to do is sniff it, honest), and some wierd high-pithced ultra sonic sounds.........

until we learn how dogs communicate fully, we'll never get a dog to communicate with a robot properly...

Efficiency (5, Informative)

devilsadvoc8 (548238) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265058)

Bipedal movement is more efficient than quadrapeds. It takes less energy to move the same mass at the same speed using two legs vs four. The problem lies in the inherent instability of bipedal movement. Thankfully, evolution has blessed us with the means to account for this instability. Roboteers don't have the benefit of millions of years and thus an easier solution would be to revert to the less efficient mode of movement involving more than two legs.

Re:Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265241)

Yeah, but that's cheating. Besides, who said that all roboteers had to do things the same way? Some of us like a challenge!

For those of us who don't subscribe to NYTimes (1)

OriginalChops (773524) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265061)

Could someone post the article here?

Lets rather make some.. (1)

noselasd (594905) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265100)

Replicators [wikipedia.org] .
They're rather cute, and "fun".

Re:Lets rather make some.. (1)

Masami Eiri (617825) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265623)

That's wonderful... until their creator gets mad and they begin eating stuff to replicate... then, while waging a war with us for supremacy, they eventually evolve into humanoid lifeforms.
This will force us to collapse the Sun into a black hole, from which they will undoubtably escape and return to attempt to wreak havoc on our new planet until an Air Force colonel accquires the knowledge of an ancient intergalactic race (who have since ascended to a energy state of being), and uses it to create a weapon capable of rendering these Replicators inert, thereby defeating them.

Oblig. Snowcrash ref.. (2, Interesting)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265126)

ahh, to own a superfast "rat-thing" (not to spoil the plot)

Re:Oblig. Snowcrash ref.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266863)

I don't want to ruin the plot either, but since you've already led us in that direction, the rat thing is not a robot. I will say no more, though I fear I have already ruined the surprise. Of course, it's hard to find someone who hasn't read snow crash on slashdot...

It will all end... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265130)

In a Metalzoic [google.com] world of mechanical monsters channeling the Earth's magnetic field.

It's true.

This has been done for years (1)

everyplace (527571) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265156)

What people don't realize is that there has been foundation research for almost 20 years now on this subject. Who can forget the Pioneering research put into the topic of 1-foot tall talking bears?

Teddy Ruxpin [mindspring.com] has for years been at the forefront of this field, dealing with human-talking-bear interaction.

its just a robot...geeez (1)

Captain BooBoo (614996) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265166)

All you people talking about dogs rights and "this will be the end of the canine species" are crazy. It's not like they are going to mutate and take over the world or anything. I think everyone should just settle down and relax...the worst thing that could happen is that the fleas won't have much to eat and will resort to people more often.

Robots (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10265193)

Remember how the robots got accepted on Earth in Asimov's stories...?

What's this mean!?!?!? (1)

LilMikey (615759) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265340)

... for beastiality.

A huge sector of the internet could be affected!

Mind over Matter (2, Interesting)

Evil Schmoo (700378) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265371)

Well, the basic idea's been around in compsci and robsci for decades -- simple machines. The article suggests that researchers are trying to imitate certain species of existing animals, and while that is no doubt true, the point is much more basic. Animals adapt to their environs in the long run (evolution) and the short run (whatever short-term evolution is called). Copying evolutionary development (ie, the long run adaptation) is really rather pointless, unless you want a robot to perform exactly as a lobster does under the sea.

If, on the other hand, you wish to use some of the lobster's physical and electromechanical techniques to create a robot that can respond to its environment independently of its controller, then you may have something worthwhile. The dramatic success of the Mars rovers, AFAIK, is due in large part to their adaptable mobility, the main impulse paths for which were copied from insects (ants?).

So, it seems to me that article misses the point -- it's not the physical structures of animals, but the neural processes that guide them, that researchers are so giddy about copying.

Peace, Love, and Soul.

I did not like transformers. (0)

master_p (608214) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265404)

...oops. I thought it was about 'anime robots'.

Re:I did not like transformers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10266331)

Transfomers rule! The dinobot group even more so since they fit into this article :P

What about BUGS?!? (1)

deimors (789785) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265646)

The idea of looking to design robotics based around a "simpler" life form than a human isn't really new. B.E.A.M robotics [slashdot.org] has been around for a number of years, a field of robotics generally finding it's inspiration in bugs and other simple creatures. Hey, if we can understand an emulate simpler organisms through machines, we're a lot closer to tackling the "higher" organisms such as ourselves.

M2 (5, Interesting)

Xeo2 (301694) | more than 9 years ago | (#10265903)

I actually spent this last summer working on M2, so I can tell you a little about how it works. M2 was designed to make use of two nifty ideas, the first being Series-Elastic Actuators (photo [mit.edu] )and the other being Virtual Model Control link to pdf journal article [birg2.epfl.ch] ).

The series elastic actuators are meant to simulate the interaction of a human muscle-tendon-bone system, and to allow for the design of a low-impedance system. M2 is designed to actually mimic the inherent low-impedence (low-stiffness) mechanical system that people represent. People are really awful at position based/high-impedance control, which is what most traditional robots use. This is useful for manufacturing, when you want the robot arm to always put the bolts in the same place, but leads to stereotypical "robot" movement (like the guy spastically jerking around on the dance floor). People are pretty good at force control though (there are all sorts of biological reasons for this). So M2 was built to be low-impedance like a person by using these S-A Actuators.

Virtual Model Control is supposed to allow more a more intuitive control of a robot by simulating it as a mechanical system. VMC lets you basically define springs and dampers at different points which are then simulated by the actuators. So to keep M2 standing, you might make a granny-walker out of springs, and to make it walk you could "attach" a spring to its chest pulling it forward. VMC has been implemented in simulation (where it works great), but it's not quite ready in real life.

The really cool thing about M2 is its potential. It already moves much more fluidly and naturally than any other robot out there, and its not nearly done yet. Once its working properly, it'll be able to walk essentially blindly (becuase its low impedance) like a person, rather than needing to know exactly where to place each foot (*cough*ASIMO*cough*) to keep from shattering itself.

If anyone has any other questions about how M2 actually works, I'd be happy to answer them.

-Zach

No Registration Link to article (2, Informative)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266043)

Here [nytimes.com] is a no registration link to the article. This link was generated by New York Times Link Generator [blogspace.com] .

Roll-Your-Own RoboDog, anyone? (1)

leinhos (143965) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266112)

This [pololu.com] seems like a cool, relatively cheap kit to build your own robo-dog.

FreeNYT (1)

Brandon One (760352) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266171)

If you didn't already know... Username: FreeNYT Password: FreeNYT

Orwell said it best! (1)

Chris Tucker (302549) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266256)

"Two legs bad. Four legs good!"

ARL at McGill develops similar robots. (2, Informative)

francisew (611090) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266261)

The Ambulatory Robotics Lab at McGill develops several robots, including a series based on cockroaches. They work really well... I'm biased, my girlfriend is doing her masters about one (aqua).

I think they have been slashdotted once already... They've got video of the robots online.

If interested, try: http://www.cim.mcgill.ca/~arlweb/Welcome.html [mcgill.ca]

IMHO, these are damned cool!

Re:ARL at McGill develops similar robots. (1)

francisew (611090) | more than 9 years ago | (#10266578)

Oh, they are also partially funded by a group that includes Boston Dynamics (mentioned in the article).

But can Hesh be a TigerBot? (1)

UberOogie (464002) | more than 9 years ago | (#10267080)

... and willl he have to live in a robot zoo?

/Sealab

My favorite quaraped robot (1)

Spudley (171066) | more than 9 years ago | (#10267588)

Yay! I always knew [url=http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff200/fv00170.htm ]Helix[/url] was a well-designed robot.

He's always been my favorite (fictional) quaraped robot. :-)

then... (1)

atkinsd (814028) | more than 9 years ago | (#10267625)

we could teach it to sing happy birthday and play guitar and name it chuck e. cheese

The field has regressed in recent years (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 9 years ago | (#10267746)

Since the MIT Leg Lab tanked, there hasn't been that much interesting work in the US. Insect-level locomotion has been done many times. With six legs, almost any control approach will work. The same goes for swimming robots. True balancing machines are harder. But they've been done.

Raibert did some great work in the Leg Lab's early days. Raibert's big insight was that balance is more important than gait, and he did work with one-legged machines with springy actuators to force the issue. In his day, the Leg Lab had one, two, and four-legged running machines. But he left MIT to do a startup [bdi.com] , which seems to have ended his dynamics work. BDI does mostly kinematic models.

The next professor to head the Leg Lab was Gill Pratt, who was more of an actuator guy. He didn't accomplish too much, and is now at some lesser school. Under Pratt, the Leg Lab backed down from running machines to walking machines.

There was somebody after Pratt, but apparently the Leg Lab is now defunct. It's sad. They made so much progress under Raibert.

It's possible to go beyond walking and running on the flat. Legs are really for traction control. All the MIT work assumes that the "feet" don't slip. That doesn't work on real hills or slippery surfaces.

There's two phases to dealing with slip. First, you need to limit joint torques to below where the feet start to slip. Once you do this, you can climb some hills. (Video, 8MB .mov file). [animats.com] That work is ten years old, and still, nobody else seems to be handling leg slip at all.

The next step is to use the three joints of a leg [animats.com] to adjust the vector at which the normal force is applied to keep the ground contact inside the friction cone. Then you can climb more serious hills. Once you get this figured out, much of how humans move when dealing with terrain becomes clear. Leaning forward and bending the knees more when going uphill is all about slip control. Think about it.

Working on this diverted me off into physics engines, because everything that was available ten years ago sucked. So I did a physics engine that worked [animats.com] , which turned into a business. There are still very few physics engines good enough for legged locomotion work. Most physics engines, especially the Baraff-type impulse/constraint ones, don't do friction well. Since legged locomotion is all about managing foot-ground friction, you need a simulator that gets friction right. (Hint: if a simulator can't do a driving game without special-casing the wheel/ground contact, it won't work for legged work.)

All this is patented [animats.com] , of course.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...