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Robotics Science Technology

Balancing Robot Can Take a Kicking 207

Posted by Zonk
from the soon-they'll-be-doing-judo dept.
BotKicker writes "A Japanese team has created the first full-size humanoid robot that won't fall over if you push it. A video shows it staggering and regaining balance after blows from a researcher. Being able to withstand shoves and kicks is essential if robots are to truly be our buddies, they reckon. 'The robot's balancing ability depends on its joints. For one thing they are never kept rigid, even when standing still, meaning they yield slightly when the robot is pushed. Force sensors within each joint also work out the position and velocity of the robot's centre mass as it moves around. Control software rapidly figures out what forces the robot's feet need to exert on the ground to bring it back into balance, and tells the joints how to act.'"
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Balancing Robot Can Take a Kicking

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  • Been done (Score:3, Informative)

    by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:27PM (#21602475) Journal
    I saw a show on the Discovery channel over a decade ago showing a one legged robot that could recover it's balance when kicked.
  • by silgaun (1029852) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:29PM (#21602519)
    What about a roundhouse kick?
  • by Mandovert (1140887) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:30PM (#21602539)
    I for one welcome our balancing overlords.
  • ridiculous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:31PM (#21602545)
    That's handy but come on, if I gave it a full force running, mid air, knee extension kick that you use on a person's sternum in martial arts to knock them clear off their feet, I doubt it could stay standing. Of course they didn't make it to combat standard but...if they made it tase me before I got to it when it detected I was about to kick it, now that would solve the problem lol
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gihan_ripper (785510)
      Well who knows, maybe it could withstand such a barrage, but only by responding with equal and opposite force. Maybe this is why the researchers didn't perform a "full force running, mid air, knee extension kick" on the robot ;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
        Whenever someone pushes me, I always push back. It's the law. (Newton's third, to be precise.)
      • by g-san (93038)
        Well, one guy did try it and the robot kicked his ass.

        All screens on nearby PCs then flashed "pwned!"

        So now it's just wimpy little shoves and nudges.
      • In such a situation it might be better programmed to blend [wikipedia.org] with the force rather than opposing it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bwana Geek (1033040)
      I doubt the point is for the robot to be impossible to knock over, just for it to have a similar sense of balance to a human. The next step, if I may hazard a guess, would probably be testing to see if it can maintain it's balance while walking along uneven surfaces, stairs, sharp inclines, etc. Also important would be its ability to return to a standing position if a random Slashdotter gives it a full-force, running, midair knee-extension kick.
      • by g-san (93038)
        No, the next step is riding a unicycle across a moving tightrope while juggling a feather, a bowling ball, an egg, and a helium balloon. That would be impressive.
    • ... and taser you long before you get your kick in
    • by risk one (1013529)
      I have a robot that can meet your challenge. Allow me to introduce the BlockOfConcrete 3000! A revolution in stabilizing robots.
    • by Dirtside (91468)

      if they made it tase me before I got to it when it detected I was about to kick it

      Don't tase me, robo!
  • I, for one, (Score:4, Funny)

    by MPAB (1074440) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:31PM (#21602559)
    welcome our new never falling robot overlords.
    • by B3ryllium (571199)
      You're being short-sighted! :)

      I, for one, welcome our new Wushu Black-Belt Robot Overlords, and I would like to remind them that as a trusted internet personality, I can help motivate the workers toiling in their underground Whupass Mines.
  • by NiteShaed (315799) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:32PM (#21602581)

    Being able to withstand shoves and kicks is essential if robots are to truly be our buddies, they reckon.


    If these guys tend to kick and shove their buddies, it may explain why they have so much time to work on robots....."Finally, a friend I can kick who won't think I'm a jerk"
  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) * on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:33PM (#21602591) Journal
    Unlike the robot, the server seems to have been unable to cope with the kicking it got after getting a good hard slashdotting.
  • by moogied (1175879)
    Please keep in mind: This is simply the first man sized robot to do this. Several other robots are capable of this feat, some even have legs the size of men, just no top. So it is a step, not a breakthrough or revolution.
    • by colmore (56499)
      While the robots are attaining invulnerability one step at a time rather than by breakthrough and revolution, I don't really find this comforting.

  • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:34PM (#21602601)

    Being able to withstand shoves and kicks is essential if robots are to truly be our buddies, they reckon.
    If you can't kick your buddy in the head, he really isn't your buddy.

    Sounds like someone's been playing too many violent video games.
  • Cool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cillian (1003268) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:34PM (#21602613) Homepage
    This is obviously a massive step forward - the major stereotypical problem with robots in the past has been their instability and slow shuffling. This opens the door to having them perform tasks like bend over and pick up weighty objects, which would have probably been impossible without this balancing mechanism.
  • by merreborn (853723) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:34PM (#21602617) Journal
    Sometimes, staggering backwards is the wrong choice.

    For example, you're standing on the sidewalk with your back to traffic. Someone bumps into you. You will do everything in your power *not* to stagger backwards in this situation -- you might reach out to grab something solid, like a signpost, a trash can, or the hand of someone with a body mass comparable or greater than your own. But you wouldn't reach for the hand of a child -- you'd just end up pulling them into the street with you.

    You've got a split second to make this choice, as well. Make it wrong, and you may die, or even take someone else with you.
    • by mcmonkey (96054) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:03PM (#21603157) Homepage

      You've got a split second to make this choice, as well. Make it wrong, and you may die, or even take someone else with you.
      I think you're spending the last moment of your life over-thinking the situation.

      First, why wouldn't I reach for the hand of a child (if that was the closet/best option)? If the issue is I'm falling back beause my center of mass is behind me, I only need to shift the mass, not overcome the momentum of my movement. Yes, I will pull the child towards me, but it may be enough of a shift in mass to pull myself towards the child as well.

      Second, this is likely on of those less-is-more situations. If I'm on the side of a busy street, and not on the edge of a tall cliff, I'm probably better off just taking a small step back to steady myself. In fighting to keep my feet in front of me, I leave my body without support, and end up falling into traffic.

      Third, if I make a habit of putting myself into situations where the slighest loss of balance may result in a life-or-death situation, maybe the gene pool will be better off if I do fall into traffic.

    • The 3 laws my friend: If there is a possibility of doing harm by a certain action of the robot, it should not execute that action. Of course robot's (and even humans) have a poor foresight and life is not black and white so if it didn't fall (for example if it fell on the rail tracks) would it cause more harm/death/carnage with it's metal under the train, possibly derailing and harming 100's of people than it would've done when it would've pushed the child to protect itself from falling on the tracks. Life'
    • I've heard of people cutting themselves accidentally while chopping vegetables and instinctively pulling their cut hand away making the wound much worse, instead of thinking about the situation and acting logically to minimize damage.

      Of course we're talking about robots here which some may want to be "better" than humans in some areas.

      Point being that people do not always perform the "proper" logical analysis required to prevent making a bad situation worse. We're as much victims of our instincts as a robot
    • But you wouldn't reach for the hand of a child -- you'd just end up pulling them into the street with you.

      Of course not. You would grab the child and pull him or her with extra force, tossing them behind you, to make up for their lesser mass.

      I'll go back to my violent game now.
    • But you wouldn't reach for the hand of a child -- you'd just end up pulling them into the street with you.

      If you grab the hand of the child and pull hard enough you will throw the child into the street and create a big enough reactive force to save yourself. :)
  • Easier (Score:3, Insightful)

    by snl2587 (1177409) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:34PM (#21602627)
    This would be a lot easier if they just made the robots in the shape of a bop bag.
  • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:35PM (#21602637) Journal
    ... "Kick my shiny, metal ass."
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:37PM (#21602663) Homepage
    That video will probably be one of the first exhibits in the Case for the Robot Uprising. As you can clearly see, not only did humans from the beginning view robots as being menial servants that we can push around and bully, we actually engineered them so that we could shove and kick them at will without interfering with their service of us! They're designed to be abused!

    In an cruel twist, it is this same ability that will make our punches and kicks ineffectual for defending our fleshy bodies from the robots when they turn against us.
    • Yeah, I was going to say, when the robots start kicking back, then we have to worry.

      Although, given Mankind's propensity to anthropomorphize everything, how long will it be until we reach the stage of seeing a robot being pushed around and having people respond with "poor robot!"?
    • Yup, the lucky few who are not enslaved will be paraded around as lounge singers, etc., and enjoy an at least modest lifestyle. It has already begun [capturedbyrobots.com]
    • I hate to say it but seeing this for real was much creepier than anything I have seen in the movies.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      That video will probably be one of the first exhibits in the Case for the Robot Uprising.

      Another exhibit would probably have to be this Pleo torture video [boingboing.net]. It's actually pretty disturbing, as the little robot dinosaur seems to make whimpering noises if you dangle it by its tail, and choking noises if you grab its neck.
    • by g-san (93038)
      I didn't know there was such rampant abuse of robots in the workplace. I've heard about these researchers that beat and mistreat their robots. I'm just glad something is being done about it.
  • Fudd's Law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by weav (158099) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:37PM (#21602665)
    I suppose this is the first exception to Fudd's Law: If you push something hard enough, it will fall over...

    On the other hand, it may just raise the energy barrier, so to speak.
  • Being able to withstand being shoved by bullies may be as useful to robots as it is to engineering students!
  • When push comes to shove. I'm sure this robot will be here to protect us; the stairs of knowledge await!
  • Next they'll find that the robot's brain changes when it views violence and then all that kicking won't seem so cool... [insert robot revenge imagery here]
  • by denzacar (181829) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:52PM (#21602969) Journal
    Don't they realize that they have just given up our one advantage that we had on robots?

    Ability to not fall down the stairs. [youtube.com]
  • by stuporglue (1167677) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:54PM (#21603003) Homepage
    The robot in the video sure looked like he was just waiting for the researcher to turn his back.
  • Surviving the kick is kind of cool. But I'll be really impressed when it can avoid the kick. When that day comes, I sincerely hope they top it off by having the robot hurl insults back. "Too slow, loser!"
  • "Being able to withstand shoves and kicks is essential if robots are to truly be our buddies"

    I'd prefer to think that if robots are to be our buddies they be made warm and soft and fuzzy and huggable because that's what we want to interact with. Unfortunately, the above indictment of human nature is probably more correct. Optimism is faith; pessimism is science.

    Even worse, on a couple different levels: sooner or later suicide bombers are going to start buying robots. We, however, will develop autonomous ant
  • Every time it's kicked, have it say "Bite my shiny metal..."

  • I mean, the "robot" was obviously on strings!
  • Near the beginning of the video, it looks like the guy gets a little too close to the robot's family jewels. Now, had the robot hauled off and punched the dude for getting too close to grabbin' his package, that would have been impressive!
    • by PPH (736903)
      Perhaps this robot is a little light in its loafers in more than one way.
  • Force sensors within each joint also work out the position and velocity of the robot's centre mass as it moves around.
    I figured they would have just stuck a Wii remote inside the robot and left it at that.
  • by CodeShark (17400) <<ellsworthpc> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:23PM (#21603549) Homepage
    I wonder if people get the significance of this, because robotics at it's core isn't always about autonomous arthromorphic creations. Sometime's it's about assistance.

    I recently met an MS sufferer that has been completely confined to a wheelchair for years because the nerves in her legs don't fire properly, even though she has sensation and can tell when she is not balanced.

    So take this so called "robot" technology, and make it something that becomes sort of like a small exo-skeletal muscle system. Call it robotically controlled balance assistance, or whatever you want.

    End result, she's out of the chair. In the real world. Good, no?

  • But the DON'T FALL DOWN.

    Somehow, I pray this is relevant. If not, it's still true.
  • ... and I liked it.

    I just felt really funny thinking about the joints actively managing the center of gravity instead of muscles or some analog.
    It's a really clean way to approach it, it's just a little unnatural.
  • by feijai (898706)
    Honda's P3 (now Asimo) has been able to do this since forever.
  • Pictures (Score:3, Informative)

    by JanneM (7445) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:26PM (#21604611) Homepage
    I wrote about the i-1 on my blog; there's some pictures there that might be interesting.

    http://janneinosaka.blogspot.com/2007/11/i-1.html [blogspot.com]
  • by mritunjai (518932) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:56PM (#21605077) Homepage
    Among all jokes, it seems that the most interesting part has been missed.

    Half way through the movie, the robot is pushed through its left side. It eerily performs an extremely human like side-stepping movement to rebalance itself.

    I have been replaying the sequence over and over again for last 15 minutes, it's the most un-fuckin'-believable amazing foot movement I've seen in bi-pedal robots!!!
  • It was fast as lightning.

    In fact, it was a little bit frightening...

  • I wish Steve Ballmer was a balancing robot.
  • You can see the strings on top! Typical Japanese. Just like those Rodan vs. Godzilla movies.
  • A wearable balancing exoskeleton for taking DUI tests.
  • Am I the only one that watched this video and couldn't help but feel the same way as when watching certain scenes from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0366179/ [imdb.com]The Second Renaissance!

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