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Toyota Reveals A Humanoid Robot That Can Run

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  • by tedshultz (596089) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @05:49PM (#28912051)
    It looks to me like their is something below the foot that makes contact before the white part of the foot makes contact. From the high speed camera, it looks like this make contact on the front foot before the back foot leaves the ground. I thought to be running, both feet need to be in the air at once. Otherwise you were walking. Maybe I am just seeing the video wrong? Regardless, it looks very impressive.
  • by lowlymarine (1172723) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @05:55PM (#28912097)
    It's about 4.4 MPH, or perhaps more usefully, a 13 minute, 40 second mile. Even us lazy nerds should be able to out-run that.
  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @06:44PM (#28912435)

    Why are all of these robots configured to work in a squatting position?

    * lower center of balance
    * better shock absorption
    * "neutral" position more centered in range of motion

    Humans don't walk that way because we have very long (and weak) legs relative to our body size and we'd exert too much energy keeping our muscles tense. But most other animals keep their legs in a "crouched" position all the time. Examine some skeletons.

  • by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @06:53PM (#28912499)

    The robot's stance actually a lot closer to the position that athletes take when they're expecting interference with their balance - football players, martial artists, etc. all work to keep their center of balance low so that it's harder to tip them over.

    Standing fully upright locks your knees and actually makes you much more unbalanced; we only do it because it's less exertion for our leg muscles.

  • by neonsignal (890658) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @08:10PM (#28912999)

    1. Squatting allows the foot to be lifted more quickly when it needs to be repositioned.

    2. It is hard to make a 'ligament' that can still apply significant torque when the joint is straight. Being able to lock the joint is an energy saving feature, probably not the most important of the criteria here.

    3. In a knee straight position, the knee joint can only apply force in one direction. This means that the ankle joint has to be used in the other direction (and the moment arm of the ankle is longer, since it is further from the CoG). You could have double jointed knees - not very humanoid, but at least you could run backwards :-)

    4. It means that vertical stresses are cushioned by joint movement, instead of having to be absorbed by the structure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 01, 2009 @08:22PM (#28913079)

    The Japanese auto manufacturers are simply structured differently than most North American or European ones. Where GM/Chrysler/Ford/BMW/Daimler/Peugeot/VAG/etc. focus entirely on vehicles and their various parts, most of the Japanese auto makers are actually a part of much larger umbrella groups that have all kinds of strange subsidiaries. Aerospace and robotics are two common ones, but the Mitsubishi and Nissan groups tackle all sorts of things from plastics, rubbers, chemicals, to electronics, mining, banking, and insurance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 01, 2009 @09:55PM (#28913497)

    Rest assured, if you honestly believe that the Japanese are developing these only for peaceful reasons, you are sincerely deluded. History is the best indicator. Nanking? China? Japan's history of human violations is shocking.

    Having said that, I concur that the US are developing robotics for military purposes.

    AC

  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:09PM (#28913557)

    Although (to reply to my own post), an interesting study [stanford.edu] [PDF] I ran across while looking for that other one suggests American attitudes towards robot employees are warming up in some areas:

    We present a study of peopleâ(TM)s attitudes toward robot workers. ... We found that public opinion favors robots for jobs that require memorization, keen perceptual abilities, and service-orientation. People are preferred for occupations that require artistry, evaluation, judgment and diplomacy."

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @12:19AM (#28914045) Homepage

    To run smoothly and efficiently robots will need joint motors that are springy and compliant just like human muscles.

    I tend to agree. What you want to emulate a muscle is a spring with a variable spring constant and zero position. There are several ways to do that. A double-ended pneumatic cylinder can do it; if you pressurize both ends at a high pressure, it's stiff, and if you pressurize both ends at low pressure, it's springy. Relative differences in pressure change the zero position. If the valves are close to the cylinder, position control of pneumatic cylinders works. Someone at CWRU built a robot this way. Of course, you need an onboard air compressor.

    There's a new variation on this concept - a device which is both a pneumatic cylinder and a linear motor. A pneumatic cylinder is a piston in a tube, and a linear motor is a magnet in a tube with coils outside the tube. So a device can be built which has a magnet as the piston and coils outside the tube, allowing both pneumatic and electrical operation. The linear motor does the fine positioning and the pneumatic system provides high power when needed.

    It's possible to do an adjustable spring mechanically, using two actuators pulling on opposed springs. That's been tried, but most of the designs involve pulleys and strings, which tend to be troublesome. I've been working on a new string-less mechanical design in that area, one that can fit inside the space required for an R/C servo of the type used on hobbyist robots.

    BigDog is hydraulic, and its actuators are very stiff. They had to put a bicycle shock absorber at the end of each leg to handle the landing shocks. But BigDog doesn't recover significant running energy. The Legged Squad Support System, the militarized successor to BigDog, may have energy recovery. There are things one can do with hydraulic accumulators and extra valves to get spring-like behavior out of hydraulics. Still, BigDog does a nice job; energy recovery will improve gas mileage, not stability.

    There's also a way to fake spring-like behavior, using a "series elastic actuator". This is a leadscrew-type linear actuator in series with a stiff spring. When the spring is compressed, the drive motor frantically tries to release the pressure before the spring bottoms out. This doesn't really store much energy, but it can be used to fake something that does. Pratt at MIT came up with this, and it's a useful research tool.

    There have been a number of other, more exotic muscle-line actuators, including fluids that change properties in an electric field, but so far, they're all worse than the ones mentioned above.

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @01:40AM (#28914265) Homepage

    But I thought the Japanese invented Gundam Suits and various Mech armors like that.

    Incorrect. The first "mobile armor" suit I'm aware of was conceived in Starship Troopers [wikipedia.org], which won the Hugo Award in 1950. Gundam didn't come about until 1979, and Mechs (as in, BattleMechs) did not come about until the 1980s, and were derived from the Japanese mecha. The first instance of "mecha" I could find was in 1956, which could certainly have originated from Heinlein's work. (That said, ideas tend to occur in spurts, and the 1950s was a pretty big time for the relatively-new powerful mechanized, hydraulically augmented machines of the day. Mecha and Mobile Armor could easily have started independently, though they have undeniably impacted each other since.)

    Though I can see why you'd think the Japs would be the origin for such things. I mean, they were the ones who had shoguns and samauri, which are about as close to such things in a pre-industry world as you can get. And they were certainly the only ones to ever have to deal with Godzilla and the like: that kind of exposure could certainly influence a people's mindset! :P

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