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One Giant Step for Humanoids

CowboyNeal posted more than 9 years ago | from the rocking-and-socking-soon-to-follow dept.

Robotics 223

An anonymous reader writes "There are a few robots that do amazing things. Honda's Asimo can walk backward and climb stairs. Sega's idog can dance to music. A tougher nut to crack has been making robots walk like humans. Today, scientists introduce three humanoid striders at the annual AAAS meeting. Unlike other robots that have to power every move, these three save energy by letting gravity do a lot of the work. Like humans, they pick up their feet and just let 'em drop. Engineers say they'll inform the next generations of humanoids and also improve design of robotic prostheses for people. And hey, why not send them to Mars to look for those microbes?"

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sites (4, Informative)

r84x (650348) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706551)

Here are the homepages for the biped labs of the three universities represented in the article.

Delft [tudelft.nl]

Cornell [cornell.edu]

MIT [mit.edu]

China & Robot Technology (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706858)

We must safeguard robotic technology from China [phrusa.org] . The Chinese would surely use such technology to build an army of robots that would expand the reach of Chinese military power.

Although academic freedom is vital at universities like MIT and Cornell, we must also consider the implications for national security. Do we want a situation in which our national security is damaged for the sake of allowing a couple of Chinese spies disguised as Chinese students to work on robotic technology at MIT and Cornell?

Prosthetics (5, Informative)

BWJones (18351) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706554)

Robotic or semi-robotic prosthesis are going to be more and more in demand because ironically of advances in battlefield armor. Current flak jackets (body armor) and helmets are protecting the vital bits of our soldiers, but often limbs (and necks) are sites of damage from explosions and firearms. Many of these soldiers are undergoing amputations either in Iraq or more commonly in Landstuhl, Germany and coming home with prosthetics of varying sophistication.

There are a couple of interesting recent additions to the Internet that cover these issues. One is an article [wired.com] by Steve Silberman [levity.com] in Wired [wired.com] and the other very interesting site is Stuart Hughes blog [blogspot.com] . Stuart is a world news producer with the BBC who unfortunately stepped on a landmine covering the Iraq war and now writes fairly frequently about "stumpy" and his prosthetic leg.

Re:Prosthetics (2, Insightful)

ZephyrXero (750822) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706590)

Kind of ironic if you think about it huh? In movies, you always see scientists working on projects to help people only to have them used by the military in the end...and now we're seeing the opposite ;)

Re:Prosthetics (3, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706864)

We scientists are always making stuff the defense department is interested in. You would absolutely be amazed at the possibilities that people think of for basic science research. In fact, I am going to be meeting with a bunch of DOD folks in a couple of months because they are interested in what we are doing. Not everything the DOD does though is involved with taking of life. There is a considerable interest in battlefield medicine and such. At any rate, this is an aspect of the Bush administrations push to applied as opposed to basic research that troubles me. We should not push basic research to the sidelines because that is where advances start from that yes, even the DOD can take advantage of.

Re:Prosthetics (2, Interesting)

Infinityis (807294) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707094)

Here I thought you were going to suggest using robots instead of humans on the front lines, and then you talked about just fixing humans with robotic parts. I should think someday we won't have to risk lives so often. We'll have robot wars between countries, and people will get used to the idea of not risking their lives to exercise control over others.

course, that's probably a ridiculous notion...

Re:Prosthetics (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707183)

It's not so ridiculous. Aren't we already moving in that direction with highly automated armaments, "smart" bombs, cruise missiles, and now in prototyping, fully automated flying drones? The reason we haven't seen much of it so far is that it has been a long time since we've had full-out combat between two powers wealthy enough to afford it. (Mainly because, I think, countries that could afford it also tend to have nukes.) The U.S. can, and is moving in that direction, but terrorists still prefer the low-tech approach.

Walk like a human? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706572)

Maybe there are more efficient methods of locomotion.


Re:Walk like a human? (4, Insightful)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706595)

Its not about efficiency, its about "Creepy" factor. Robots that *look* or *act* human need all those little things that make us feel comfortable... they need to walk naturally, or blink at a normal rate - or you won't interact with them properly, and they give you a feeling of "Wrongness" .

Re:Walk like a human? (2, Informative)

gwydion04 (756582) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706636)

you speak of the uncanny valley [arclight.net] , methinks :)

Re:Walk like a human? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706706)

Wouldn't it make more sense to not bother trying to make them human-like if this research is correct? Aiming for the peak before the 'uncanny valley' would be more cost-effective than trying to create a virtually perfect human replica robot. Think C3PO or something - he's human enough that his form shouldn't bother anyone, but it's not so human that anyone could find it disturbing/offensive (well, there's always some people who find something offensive, but you get the idea).

Re:Walk like a human? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706822)

Remember that C3PO is actually a person. There was a guy inside of him that gave him all of his movements. Yeah, his face was frozen, but he still had the body language of a human being, albeit a bit stiff. Add to that the langauge, and you've got a stroke sufferer, not a robot.

Re:Walk like a human? (1)

lakerdonald (825553) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706722)

I do agree that for humans to interact with robots on a natural level, they can't be like the robots of sci-fi lore. Their mannerisms will need to be more subtle, in my opinion.

Re:Walk like a human? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706757)

What about muppets? They don't have a lot of the details that real people have -- in fact, their facial expressions are downright primitive : no eyebrows, no mouth expressions, etc. For the most part, the only have one hand to emote with. Is it because they are wrangled by humans that they aren't so creepy? Or is it because they are a good enough caracature of people without being too close?

Re:Walk like a human? (1)

EspressoMachine (815675) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706777)

It's only creepy if they're made to look human. It seems to me, we'd want to keep our robots looking as much like machines as possible. Then it doesn't matter that they don't move like people, and most importantly, everyone knows that they are in fact machines.

Re:Walk like a human? (1)

McDrewbie (530348) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706779)

Why do we need robots everywhere, interacting with us? Am I the only one out there that doesn't find this idea of a future society appealing?

Re:Walk like a human? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706848)


Once these nice female-humanoids become more human like, they will stop going out with geeks or even be near them.

Re:Walk like a human? (0, Redundant)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706948)

Too Easy...

"Creepy" Factor? "Walk" UnNaturally? "Blink at an abnormal rate"? Lack of normal interraction?

You mean like 90% of /. readers?

Muscles, perhaps? (5, Insightful)

Avyakata (825132) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706593)

"...save energy by letting gravity do a lot of the work. Like humans, they pick up their feet and just let 'em drop."

That makes sense, but humans don't really just let their feet "drop." Our steps are actually quite controlled...if we just let gravity pull them down, we'd have pretty heavy footfalls, not to mention an awful lot of shuffling...

Re:Muscles, perhaps? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706839)

Actually, what you say *seems* intuitively right but is proved not-quite-correct by research in passive-dynamics. The energy required to make precisely controlled steps (i.e., muscularly-actuated) is much greater than the energy humans (or any other legged creature, for that matter) expend on walking. Bipedal walking for animals of our size is possible only because humans have evolved adaptive, energy-saving strategies for bipedal motion (for instance, the long tendons and ligaments of our legs are used as passive energy stores).

However, this is not to say that human walking is not a complex coordination of many muscular systems. It's just that steps are not as controlled as we'd like to think. This is by design, so that we can adapt quickly to unpredictable surfaces. Robots that try to be very controlled in walking usually are very slow because they must do many dynamic calculations that humans simply don't do because of the way our legs are designed.

Re:Muscles, perhaps? (4, Interesting)

cnettel (836611) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706899)

Also, remember that a leg is not dropping. I know you indirectly said so by mentioning the energy stores and so on, but I think it's important to make it an explicit point.

We approximate a pendulum rather than letting the foot be some kind of ball attached to a "string" (the leg) bouncing up and down. Human movements without a proper grasp of angular momentum gives strange interpretation, like that of the OP.

Re:Muscles, perhaps? (2, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706875)

Actually, "letting them drop" isn't very far from the truth. Of course, we don't just let our feet fall straight down. We swing our legs forward and let our feet catch ourselves before we fall flat on our faces. We actually let a lot of the motion during swing phase happen via gravity, as our lower legs rotate down and forward around the knee joint.

Probably more to the point of what the blurb was talking about, but didn't really explain: human walking uses dynamic stability. During the period of time where one foot is off the ground, our center of mass is not stably supported by the other foot. Compare this to the insect tripod gait, where at all times the center of mass is within the triangle formed by drawing a line between the three stanced feet - thus making it *statically* stable. And compare this to Asimo and the other famous bipedal robots out of Japan - they maintain a statically stable support by balancing the center of mass directly over one of the legs, but they aren't dynamically stable like humans can be.

Re:Muscles, perhaps? (1)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707204)

I would think our steps are only controlled when they need to be. Walking on level ground, we're just using passive dynamics.

The MIT robot (1)

sub7 (187049) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706597)

I saw the MIT robot this past summer stumbling around outside Fenway park after a Red Sox game! He walks like a drunk...

Hey it took days to program that.! (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706905)

The MIT robot normally walks properly like a human. For the "after the game" demo they wanted to make it look like an "after the game" human. Took a lot of effort to get that right!

Please. (5, Funny)

mctk (840035) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706600)

Oh sure, they can walk like me. But what's their record on Dance Dance Revolution?

Re:Please. (1)

Infinityis (807294) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707067)

You joke, but they may be closer than you think.

It started with bots on comptuer games like Counter-Strike, now we've got bots walking more efficiently, pretty soon, some thing akin to Commander Data will get perfect scores on DDR every time.

What am I thinking, robots like that will soon be able to get perfect scores while playing multiple games of DDR simultaneously...

Sending to mars it interesting, but... (2, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706601)

there are probably better forms to send there. The rovers are interesting, but they can not cover a large amount of terrain at a time. It would probably be better to have some sort of a flyer, so that it can move quickly for long distances.

Re:Sending to mars it interesting, but... (2, Interesting)

Boronx (228853) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706687)

What kind of wingspan would you need to fly on mars? Now, a Titan flyer could get by with little stubs, or maybe some kind of lighter-than-air flyer, that could easily land to do analysis of objects. We really ought to send flyers into the gas giants, too.

Re:Sending to mars it interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706708)

You don't measure the success of a mission by the distance that was covered, but by how much terrain was analysed. There's no point in travelling faster than the rate at which instruments can analyse the soil and rocks.

Re:Sending to mars it interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706813)

You are somewhat true. But just as it is on Earth, there are different types of terrain and geological things depending on where you are.

Re:Sending to mars it interesting, but... (1)

beacher (82033) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707255)

They're already out in space... Watch some MST3K and look at MIT's Toddler (Tom Servo), Cornell and Delft look like they are Crow's parents... As for Gypsy... mmmm... Barney's Actimate that was rooted by a vacuum cleaner? dunno...


awesome. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706605)

im happy. The asimo ran like an old lady.

When they walk they really look human (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706613)

and some of them are programmed to think they ARE human..

Perfect For Military Use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706617)

With the current drive to put robots into the front lines of the battlefield, and perhaps build combat robots, this application would fit right into the scheme of building a fighting robot.

I'm up for anything to give our boys a leg in this fight. This is it. I hope the Pentagon can find a way to apply this technology.

Logical conclusion (4, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706976)

We're somewhere along the following evolutionary parth for war:

One king doesn't like the other king so he goes beats him up. Unfortunately he also gets hurt in the process.

Hey instead of **me** being hurt I'll send some blokes (==soldiers) over to beat up the other king.

The other king doesn't like to be beaten up, so he puts his soldiers in the way. We now have two armies beating eachother up.

Hey let's not send our soldiers into the battlefield to get hurt, let's send robots. Nobody gets hurt. Soldiers can sit at home and eat pizza.

The enemy then gets pissed that these robots beat up their people and build their own. Now we have robots beating up on robots.

Next, the one army gets pissed that their robots are getting beaten up and start hacking the enemy comms to stop the other robots. The enemy responds by hacking the hackers...

So what's the logical conclusion? Is war going to just end up being a big computer simulation with nobody getting hurt? Perhaps the kings should just go decide over a nice game of chess!

Re:Logical conclusion (1)

Pfhorrest (545131) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707247)

There was a Star Trek episode that was sort of about this (forget which series, probably TOS) in which the Enterprise crew encountered a pair of worlds killing their own populations (by vaporization or some such) because of the results of a virtual war being carried on between them. One world would land a virtual bomb on another world's cities in the virtual war, and everyone "killed" in the sim would then be escorted to the vaporization chambers for execution. If either side didn't comply with the rules, actual bombs got lobbed instead, and not only people but the physical cities were destroyed as well.

The difference between that scenario or your chess scenario, and where this robotic/cyber warfare is headed, is that the objective of cyber warfare would be to disable the enemy's robots, so that your robots can get into the enemy city and... at that point just the enemy's defenselessness would probably lead them to surrender. If not, they send human defenders, which the robots would likely defeat, and then be free to do accomplish whatever it is the war was about.

But then, given that, as you say, many wars nowadays are really just personal disputed between individual leaders whose followers get caught up in, I'm much more in favor of the "if you really hate them, then YOU go and fight them" policy.

I hate the concept of organized military, where people fight only because they're paid and ordered to do so, but I'd gladly fight to defend my home, city, state, country, what-have-you from direct attack.

One giant step... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706621)

Darn, I was hoping for one step for Giant Humanoids!

All humans are men, but not all men are humans (0)

NRAdude (166969) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706652)

Human != man
Human is a kind of man; hence mankind.
plural "human" is "humans",
plural "man" is "men",

Consider others such as "german" or "roman" or ...

What, thousands of years ago in Babylon, there was a religion that converted a man upon induction into a "human." The "hu" prefixed to their Court order was a mark for their god.

Now all we hear today is human this, human that; and the most cherished quote held on fictional (human) sitcoms is from a artificial robot that says "kill all humans...kill all humans."

Therefore, I deny that I am a human based on these self-evident facts. I am a godly man, not a human. I do not accept human rights, therefore I have no duty to pay taxes to secure those rights. All I need is love, and humans don't have it obviously because all they do is claim the world by conquest and discovery. The catholic church is a proponent for human rights; a direct affront to Jesus the Christ; Yeshuah. Perhaps, that is why the Bible was first considered a Testament; you are now leaving man, and joining the ranks among humans, be certain to not violate anyone while you are a practicer of the religion beknownst Relative Humanism.

Re:All humans are men, but not all men are humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11707270)

worst. post. ever!

get on with it already (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706655)

I wish Honda would do something with ASIMO that is actually useful. Send him to work at McDonalds (yes, I recognise the irony of spending millions of dollars to replace someone who gets paid minimum wage) or at an old folks home or something. Instead of focusing on the intricate details of "standing up" and "walking forward" why not choose something for him to do, and solve all the problems needed for him to do it. But don't invent Yet Another Bi-pedal Locomotion Technique, that problem is solved more than enough to move on to the next problem.

Re:get on with it already (5, Insightful)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706844)

What an ignorant post. These are generic robotics problems that NEED to be solved if robotics are to evolve into what is today the realm of science fiction. The reason you keep seeing "yet another bi-pedal locomotion technique" is because scientists aren't satisfied with the current offerings.

Rest assured there are entire industries who make specialized robotics for the likes of the fast food industry, etc. What we need is more research into general robotic functions, such as walking, recognition, etc.

Re:get on with it already (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706898)

We see YABLT because bi-pedal walking is a "research area". It's seen as something that students can study so they do.

haha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706866)

To do any of the things you just mentioned would require strong AI, and nobody has made any significant progress on that front since ... well, ever.

Re:get on with it already (2, Interesting)

scubaed (554377) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706888)

But don't invent Yet Another Bi-pedal Locomotion Technique, that problem is solved more than enough to move on to the next problem.
Nope, I'm sorry, but it has barely begun to being solved (and this article is in the right direction).

Asimo does not solve the problem, it merely over-engineers it into oblivion. Linearizing every joint and making it look somewhat realistic does not solve the problem, that's why it can only run 30 minutes or so on a charge (pun intended).

Asimo serves an extremely important purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706907)

I work at Honda, and let me tell you, Asimo exists for a reason:
So they have an excuse to give out tiny Asimo action figures whenever the president sneezes!!!

Re:get on with it already (2, Informative)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706939)

It is *far* from solved.

There was an article not so long ago about a robot that can stand up from lying on the floor. That was some pretty big progress. However, even that robot is still very far from a human. It needs almost two minutes for that!

Current robots barely walk properly. They still have a long way to go until they can do things like jumping on one leg, which are trivial for humans.

Re:get on with it already (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706964)

It's solved enough for a robot to be able to carry a tray of food out to a waiting customer. That's what's important.

Re:get on with it already (2, Interesting)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707027)

No, it's not. Humans (and animals) have the sense which is more important than ANYTHING in public situations: general awareness.

what if a little kids runs round it's feet, or a kid runs in front of them? The robot goes NEAAAAAARGH and falls over.

Until they can produce organic robots who use their legs without so much bloody automation, then you can start saying theyre ready.

Re:get on with it already (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707123)

Send them there to do what? ASIMO can walk and do other movements. That's it. The only way to make it useful to the public at this point would be to stick a lightbulb on it's head and call it a lamp.

It's just for research.

Re:get on with it already (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707167)

That's my point. The reason ASIMO can't do shit is because they are fiddling with walking and balancing instead of hand-eye co-ordination and speech understanding.

Why not? (4, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706721)

"And hey, why not send them to Mars to look for those microbes?"

Probably because there are much more efficient ways to locomote. Bipedalism is risky, especially if you want to bend over a lot to pick things up.

I'm in favor of a radially symmetrical spider-like walker that can turn in any direction, or even invert it legs and continue walking if it gets turned upside down. This would make it much more flexible in navigating the Martian environment.

You could have a central ring with legs attatched all around it, and then a rotating body that includes sensors, power supply, and a grappling hand. The single grappling hand descends from the center and pulls samples up into the body for storage/analysis.

Re:Why not? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706842)

"Bipedalism is risky, especially if you want to bend over a lot to pick things up.

Speaking as an ex-convict I advise taking this man's words to heart.

Yeah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706740)

Time to do the Humanoid Boogie! [neilinnes.org] .

Some people say it with flowers
Some people say it at Lloyds
But you don't find many tryin' to say it with humanoids...

Cred to Neil and the Bonzo Dog Band.

A bit of the old Hubris? (2, Interesting)

Exluddite (851324) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706787)

Hats off to the folks who are working on these robots. They truly are amazing bits of engineering. But are we really so narcissistic that we think something that looks and acts human is a good design? After all, the robots that really are useful to us (mostly in manufacturing) don't look human.

Re:A bit of the old Hubris? (1)

NerdConspiracy (858939) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706909)

It's more like pandering to the hubris of the general public. This is essentially a marketing excercise, just like Asimo is a marketing excercise for Honda.
I'm not saying this is not valid research, but there is plenty of other research in robotics that doesn't make the news cause who wants to see robots that look like spiders or whatever. But make them look like humans (or cute dogs - whatever its name was) and it becomes news.

Mars is gonna be tough (2, Insightful)

henrypijames (669281) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706794)

It still takes a long way to have those robots learn running, crawling, dodging, rolling like Indiana Jones (or Lora Croft, if you prefer your robots feminine). Until then, I won't recommend them for a mission on another planet.

Seriously, insectoid robots are obviously much more suitable for terrain expedition.

But why.... (2, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706795)

Humanoid had to be the worse design as far as robots go. For animals it works because it would be hard for there to be an organic life form with wheels. Maybe something like a self driving segway would work well. They have that other segway wheelchair that climbs stairs and everything. If they spent more time designing the robots to do actual task like identifying objects, picking them up, and operating them, instead of spending the time trying to make them walk, we'd be a lot further along.

Re:But why.... (3, Insightful)

badmicrophone (858946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706838)

well, it's a migration strategy.

If we want our robots to live in a human world in our homes and cities they more or less need to fit our form factor. Additionally, if you want the robots to take over jobs like construction then, at first, they will need to be able to drive the decades old machinery - back-hoes, delivery trucks...you get the picture.

Going past that stage there is also the psycological consideration: a robot with whom you can shake hands is going to garner more emotional investment from us then the tank treaded claw-mobile.

when robots become the new automobile we WILL see them in much more "functional" forms: more machine like and specialized. but there will always be a place for the humanoid robot in our homes.

Great minds elsewhere (2, Insightful)

badmicrophone (858946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706800)

I can't help it, but alongside the pride and excitement I feel whenever I see technological progress like this I have this tinge of frustration.

How much money is spent every year on perfume? how many great mechanical engineers are working for sea-doo?

I mean, we could have so much more! Not just in robotics but chemisty, physics, space exploration...

But, alas, I know that all work and no play makes humans a dull animal and that that perfume makes ladies smell very nice. Nevertheless, I cannot help this tinge of disapointment which inevitably follows my rush of happiness.

Re:Great minds elsewhere (1)

mr_null (16516) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707233)

It is a bit frustrating how much effort we spend on leasure activities isn't it. I find it more frustrating to see all the people in my life who have some how lost the ability to dream and take risks.

At least there is the potential for the engineer working for sea-doo to make a breakthrough that could influence other works outside of their field, I'm not sure the same could be said for the poor sap working tech support for a bank.

I could go on a rant, but this is already headed way off topic, so I'll stop.

Humanoids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706825)

Please continue the research... I am still waiting for my fembot to get laid!

Descriptions of How They Walk (1)

Sundroid (777083) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706830)

PhysOrg.com has an article on the same subject, in which it describes how these 3 robots walk, for instance: "The Cornell robot supplies power to the ankles to push off. When the forward foot hits the ground, a simple microchip controller tells the rear foot to push off. During the forward swing of each leg, a small motor stretches a spring, which is finally released to provide the push." Fascinating stuff. I have the link to the article on my blog: http://sundroid.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] , if anyone's interested.

And they can clean your house! (1)

joel8x (324102) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706850)

I just got my wife a Roomba robot vacum cleaner, and I have to say its one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. It makes us feel like we're finally in the 2000's to have this little robot rolling around picking up cat hair while you are free to do other things.

I get really excited about the prospects of putting robotics to use in the home. Sure their use in science is great, but its pretty cool to have "Rosie" cleaning up!

Re:And they can clean your house! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706915)

Bah! that is nothing. I got my robot, a wife and I have to say it is one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time.

I get really excited about the prospects of little crawling around my house. Sure their use of sex is weird, but its pretty cool to have "Rosie" cleaning it up!

Any way to see the video without Real Player 10? (0, Offtopic)

The Wicked Priest (632846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706868)

I've got Real Player 8 on my system. When I follow the video link, RP8 wants to install RP10 (yuck). If I cancel, it won't let me view the vid. And when I try the link in MPlayer, it immediately says "Stream EOF detected".

Sega?!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706878)

Uhhh, excuse me... Sony's AIBO has been dancing dynamically to music years before Sega's toy ever was dreamed up.

Specialized, but equally amazing I think (2, Interesting)

yuckysocks (806608) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706922)

This website has a neat video of dancing robots on it. It obviously doesn't carry the same implications
that a low-energy walking robot does, but the motor control and balance gyros and the what-have-you
needed for this act are still pretty impressive.

Video [impress.co.jp]

Source page [typepad.com]

Hmm... (1)

Alien Venom (634222) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706933)

I'm still a little skeptical about this whole humans creating robots thing. I mean, I saw Terminator 2 and the outcome was not pretty.

I, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11706934)

for one, wel... whew.... that was close.

Yeah, Thats Nice... (2, Funny)

St.Anne (651391) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706943)

These 'bots are great but they're still kids toys compared to advanced Westinghouse designs from the 1930's. When this robot [davidszondy.com] finishes a task he even takes a smoke break !!

My $.02 (1)

JordanAU (855885) | more than 9 years ago | (#11706957)

I don't understand why they try to make human robots. If you think about it humans are not very specialized creatures, we can do a little bit of everything. run, swim, jumb, crawl, etc. They should make robots specific that way they can do a few tasks great as opposed to all tasks decently. For instance, if you want a robot that will take beer from your fridge, why would you make a humanoid robot that walks perfectly?? Just make two wheels and an arm that can open the fridge and pick up beer (or other items from your kitchen). Specialized robots would be cheaper, smaller, and more efficient. You could afford more of them and more people could afford them.

Re:My $.02 (1)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707045)

wheels dont run over bits of paper and old cans on the floor. wheels don't negotiate a 8 inch gap between 2 sofas. wheels don't go down spiral staircases. wheels don't like some textured surfaces. wheels take lots of power.

when/if they crack the two leg thing it'll be incredibly vast and applicable to so much. therefore price EVENTUALLY will drop. no point in f'ing with more stupid half way points. just keep working on the goal.

And humans are specialised. They can climb walk and crawl pretty much everywhere. THAT is useful.

Re:My $.02 (1)

mr_null (16516) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707175)

I don't understand why they try to make human robots.

From the article:

Collins is applying what's been learned in an effort to develop better prosthetic feet for humans. "I think that you can't know how the foot should work until you can understand its role in walking," he said.

That help at all?

Re:My $.02 (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707225)

One could make the following case: All of our tools, machines, and buildings are specifically designed for humans. Therefore a human-like robot could use our tools, machines, and buildings without having to modify them. For example, a human-like robot might be able to drive a car, climb stairs, and mix a martini.

I'm not sure even I buy the above argument. I think they sometimes develop human-like robots because such a silly design presents a challenge.

One side effect, as mentioned in previous posts, may be improved prosthetic limbs.

bah! (3, Insightful)

MistabewM (17044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707016)

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. - Robert A. Heinlein

Watch out Roomba!! (1)

McBeer (714119) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707077)

You can strap the vacuum cleaner you already own to one of these little fellows!

More details in Science research paper, videos (2, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707111)

For those of you looking for more details, here's the research paper [sciencemag.org] published in Science (may need institutional subscription) and videos of all three robots [sciencemag.org] .

Here's the abstract text:

Efficient Bipedal Robots Based on Passive-Dynamic Walkers
Steve Collins, Andy Ruina, Russ Tedrake, Martijn Wisse

Passive-dynamic walkers are simple mechanical devices, composed of solid parts connected by joints, that walk stably down a slope. They have no motors or controllers, yet can have remarkably humanlike motions. This suggests that these machines are useful models of human locomotion; however, they cannot walk on level ground. Here we present three robots based on passive-dynamics, with small active power sources substituted for gravity, which can walk on level ground. These robots use less control and less energy than other powered robots, yet walk more naturally, further suggesting the importance of passive-dynamics in human locomotion.

The Delft one blows me away (1)

serutan (259622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707113)

Wow, the one from Delft is so minimalist it doesn't even look like a real robot, more like a movie prop of a science project. Considering the bulk of some others like Asimo, and that true bipedal walking was big news only a couple years ago, reducing it to such a simple package is pretty amazing!

humanoid robots these days. (1)

ikkonoishi (674762) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707149)

In my day humanoid robots had to lift their legs uphill in the now both ways. That is if you had legs. My best friend got along fine with a set of wheels.

These modern robots and their "gravity assisted walking". How Dreadful.

Cee Threepio

cell processor and robots (1)

mxpengin (516866) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707166)

I have been thinking about the recently anounced cell processor and robots, I think it will be excellent to use it in them. Remember that 2 of the companies involved in the development of the cell are toshiba and sony , and those two companies are developing/sell robots. The parallelism that that the cell will provide will be excellent. Imagine an APU dealing with some pattern recognition algorithms while other deals with voice recognition and so on .... I start to see a future with home robots made by sony, industrial robots by toshiba and business equipment by IBM .... here [toshiba.co.jp] some [toshiba-machine.co.jp] links [tokyodv.com] to robots [sony.net]

"at the annual AAAS meeting" (1)

reinard (105934) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707177)

wow. i had to look 3 times to read what was actually written there. at first i thought, don't those two words mean the same thing?

it's time to go home. looooong day at work.

Whoa... (1)

Robotron23 (832528) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707179)

One of those robots looks like those drones from Star Wars, and another like that robot from Futurama!
Obviously, these top scientists are attempting to appeal to people who watch TV!

Little progress (1)

lux55 (532736) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707229)

Engineers drew from "passive-dynamic" toys dating back to the 1800s that could walk downhill with the help of gravity. Little progress has been made since on getting robots to walk like people.
This remark is interesting in that perhaps we're not making progress these days because we're not paying attention. We're not looking right.

The greatest inventors in history likely wouldn't consider themselves "creators" of their inventions so much as "observers" of the natural world. Prior to the past century (thank you Nietzche) inventors and artists played a similar role (look at Da Vinci, who is considered to be both), in that their job wasn't to "create" things, but rather to "mimic" the world they saw, and seek ways to perfect it.

Now, keeping value judgements out of this (I'm not claiming they're better than we are per se), it seems to me to be more effective the way things used to be done. Perhaps our "progressive" mindset has forgotten some important lessons.

Robots or drones? (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11707266)

This reminds me of a topic I was thinking about recently: the misuse of the word "robot." I believe, as the word was originally intended, a robot is some kind of machine that processes input and autonomously makes decisions and acts accordingly (and with some kind of intelligence, to distinguish from simple logic devices like thermostats.) A drone, on the other hand, is some kind of device which can perform sophisticated mechanical acts, but depends on human command and control in order to act intelligently.

Thus, under this classification, most of these technology demonstrators are actually drones. They act as we tell them to act, and that's all they are capable of. Real robotics research, on the other hand, is more about artificial intelligence and autonomous goal achievement. Thus, though they can't walk, talk, and shake our hands, the machines entered in the DARPA Grand Challenge [roadtripamerica.com] are more robots than these walking contraptions are.

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