Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The robot with muscle and bone

We have "robot" versions of many animals.  Humans, on the other hand, are a defter feat to pull off.

Now, the University of Tokyo gives us Kenshiro, a robot that emulates human form down to the muscular and skeletal levels.  Kenshiro was designed to be about the size of the average (for Japan) 12 year-old boy.  Even t that scale, developers reported difficulty in getting the robot's weight proportions to balance out, but those problems appear to be a thing of the past.

How exactly do Kenshiro's "muscles" work?  As stated in the article:

"Like Kojiro [a previous robotic model], Kenshiro is actuated by a system of pulley-like muscles. This time, instead of single point-to-point muscles, they decided to make planar muscles -- just check out Kenshiro's abs to understand what we mean.
These flat and wide muscles use only one motor and are much more stable. All in all, these motors give Kenshiro 64 degrees of freedom (except for the hands): 13 in the neck, 13 in each arm, 7 in each leg, and 11 in the spine."

Kenshiro's bones are made of aluminum and said to be sturdier than the previous incarnation's as those were done on a 3D printer...at least that is what the article suggests.  Personally, I would like to know how much of Kenshiro was manufactured via 3D printing as that would be interesting in and of itself.  Whatever the composition and point of origin, it's enough to allow Kenshiro to bend, turn, and squat like an actual human with full freedom of articulation.  Watch the video at the link, quite gorgonizing really.  Face it folks, Asimov saw this coming.

I wonder how nanotech might one day be incorporated.  Perhaps within Kenshiro's "skin," "muscle," and "bone" there could nanobots assigned to repair or regenerate synthetic tissue as needed.  That's a long way off, granted, and the more germane question for adding nanotech would be to see how it might be applied to our own bodily systems.

I'm sure that right now the "gun crazies" are looking at this thing and thinking that the "terminators" are on their way.  

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