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Toyota Reveals A Humanoid Robot That Can Run

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  • Nike had better sign that sucker up, pronto!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm American! I have no idea if that is fast or not! Someone help me, do I need to be afraid or can I outrun it? Even if it's slow, I probably can't outrun it.

  • 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 amRadioHed (463061) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @05:55PM (#28912089)

      I'm pretty sure it is a run. Notice around 0:53 in the video both feet are off the ground. You can tell because they are both moving forward at the same.

    • by Falstaft (847466) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @05:55PM (#28912099)

      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.

      If you watch closely around :53 you can see that both feet are not touching the ground. But really, when you're being pursued by a hyper-ambulatory Asimo, my mind's on survival, not robo-locomotive kinematics!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)
      I showed the video to my seven year old son and he immediately identified the movement as a run.
  • If you're looking for a long (LONG) term investment, Toyota seems the way to go.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @06:17PM (#28912265)

      Depends on if you're investing for dollars or inventions, I suppose. I think Toyota has a good research program, and there's a good chance that long-term more exciting things will come out of it. But it's a totally different question whether this will result in Toyota stock being worth significantly more. They could totally implode in the medium-term if their actual business (selling cars) does badly, for example. Or they could fail to figure out how to commercialize the technology, Xerox PARC style. Etc.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        sadly, most investors are in it for the quick buck these days, when in the (distant) past, it was much more long term...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hitmark (640295)

        oh i think they have a firm plan for commercialize this, btw. Japan's population is growing ever older (as is the rest of the developed world, as more people push education and career before family, and have smaller families when they finally get round to it), and have a very xenophobic outlook (tho the samurai of old benefited from from immigrant workers, said workers where seen as lower then the lowest nipponese, and the descendants from said workers may well find themselves discriminated against to this

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Trepidity (597)

          Ah yeah, I had forgotten about that angle. It's an interesting viewpoint--- I can't find the link again, but I recall reading a study that found that the idea of robots taking care of old people was viewed as a dystopian possibility in the U.S., but a utopian one in Japan.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Trepidity (597)

            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."

      • I can tell from the pixels.
      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        As has been said elsewhere, Toyota makes a lot more than just cars. And if I were worried about someone's business failing in the auto industry, I would not be concerned for Toyota anyway, to be certain: they're probably the most reasonably priced, reliable vehicles available in the US (and elsewhere) right now.

        As for the research itself, it doesn't seem like it was all that difficult to accomplish, in my mind: we have understood the mechanics of running for some time. We've got slow-motion pictures, xrays,

    • There's not much of a moment of suspension, but there is some. There's a little more than with Research ASIMO.

      Perhaps a poor pun, but you forget that ASIMO has been running now for at least 5 years. Back in 2005, my girlfriend and i watched the run demonstration on one of Honda's world trips. The literature at the event pointed out that the robot had been running (both feet off the ground) for at least a year prior to that event.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtiCHtHxc48 [youtube.com]

      One should also not forget that the ASIMO project is growing in multiple areas of robotics, including but not limited to face recognition a

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @06:13PM (#28912229) Homepage Journal

    Once the robots have eliminated all their human creators, the world-wide war will be Honda vs Toyota.

    Sadly, the goal of the war will be to eliminate all commercial competition for the car divisions of Honda and Toyota but there will be no humans left to buy them.

    And like a house of cards, it's going to be checkmate right in the bullseye.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @06:17PM (#28912273)
    Why are all of these robots configured to work in a squatting position? Is it that much more difficult to make them perform in a fully upright human like stance?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It is likely that this position allows more leeway to handle a situation in which the "legs" may need to be stretched out to balance itself, and to leave some room for climbing staircases etc. It also probably has something to do with balancing the CG.
    • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by neonsignal (890658)

      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

    • What kind of Toyota/Honda comparison is this?

      What are the 0-7km/h times? The quarter-mile times? Best time around Nürburgring?

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @06:24PM (#28912317) Homepage

    There's not much of a moment of suspension, but there is some. There's a little more than with Research ASIMO.

    Most legged running researchers are trying to maintain some stability criterion, and avoid spending much time in suspension, with all legs off the ground. This may be the wrong approach.

    There are two schools of thought in this field. There are the people who start with walking and try to work up to running, and the people who start with hopping and try to work down to running. Most work is from the first school, but BigDog comes from the hopping faction.

    Suspension is sometimes a good way to get out of trouble. You get to move all the limbs while in flight and get completely new footholds. Watch some basketball and you'll see this frequently. There's also a half-suspension in quadrupeds, as when you see a horse kick up their hind end to reposition the legs.

    The technology in this area can get much, much better. The hardware, in robots, sensors, and computers, is almost good enough. Now we need smarter control algorithms.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Spy Hunter (317220)

      I really don't think the hardware is good enough yet. To run smoothly and efficiently robots will need joint motors that are springy and compliant just like human muscles. All of the robot limbs I've ever seen are far too stiff (with the possible exception of BigDog's legs). Just look at this guy's head and arms shake while he's running; there are huge shock forces being transmitted from the feet directly up to the torso through all those stiff joints. Not only is that likely bad for the robot, it means

      • 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.

    • From what I've seen (which is, admittedly, only a couple of youtube videos), BigDog seems much more capable of coping with unforeseen events, whereas ASIMO looks like it only needs one variable to be slightly outside of expected range and it'll fall flat on its face. And possibly explode.
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @06:25PM (#28912323) Homepage Journal
    "Life is like a box of screws", it commented
  • I don't get it. While impressive and cool-looking in itself, it's obvious that the robot misses a host of methods the human body can employ to move gracefully and efficiently on two legs. I'd suggest developers of humanoid robots try to understand how humans do it. Research into martial arts should teach them a thing or two, T'ai-Chi Ch'uan should work especially well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by neonsignal (890658)

      If you had as few degrees of joint freedom as this robot, you wouldn't look too graceful and efficient either...

  • ...who is totally, utterly impressed by the sight of this set of mechanical parts actually running? Watching the video I have forgotten that this is all a mass of composite and metal. All those SF movies and animations where robots are depicted as slowly-moving objects have been obsoleted in one instant. If anything, it's time for some rather more terrifying robotic characters.

    • by sunspot42 (455706)

      The 2004 Battlestar Galactica has already shown Cylons running into combat. It was a pretty chilling sight.

      • I have to humbly admit not to know much or nearly anything, about Battlestar Galactica (I don't watch TV shows). Could you tell me if footage of those running cylons can be found on Youtube in some way?

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