MIT Researchers Build Robot with 'Human Reflexes'

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 - 3:46PM
Robotics
Tuesday, 11 August 2015 - 3:46PM
MIT Researchers Build Robot with 'Human Reflexes'
Although robots can beat us at many things, including chess, image recognition, and even IQ, it's difficult for even the most advanced robots to perform simply physical tasks that humans don't even think about. Our bodies and brains have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years, and are fine-tuned to survive in this world. The physicality of a human is extremely difficult to replicate, to the point that AI theorists believe robots will achieve the singularity before they have bodies comparable to humans

But now, MIT researchers are here to change all that, as they have built a robot named HERMES that takes its cues from human reflexes in order to fluidly perform nuanced physical tasks. HERMES is a humanoid robot who is controlled by a human in a mechanical exoskeleton, in order to take advantage of a human's split-second reflexes that control functions like balance. Think of it as a mecha robot, but instead of actually having to live inside of the robot while it fights Pacific Rim monsters or plow down pro-apartheid soldiers in Johannesburg, you can watch at a safe distance. 



PhD candidate Joao Ramos describes the project as "trying to put the human's brain inside the robot," as HERMES can imitate the subtle movements of a human. The innovation lies in the sensors, which receive information, feed it directly back to the human in the exoskeleton, and then "borrow" the human's reflexive movements to right him or herself. As a result, it successfully keeps its balance (and learns for the future) while performing essential tasks like pouring coffee and crushing beer cans.

In all seriousness, though, pouring coffee is an extremely delicate task, and this technology could open all kinds of doors for rescue robots. If robots can perform more nuanced physical tasks, then they could replace humans in increasingly volatile situations. Maybe in a few years, we'll have a robot version of The Hurt Locker.
Science
Technology
Robotics

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