Unlucky Robot is Designed to Stand Up After Getting Knocked Over

Sunday, 01 October 2017 - 6:20PM
Technology
Robotics
Sunday, 01 October 2017 - 6:20PM
Unlucky Robot is Designed to Stand Up After Getting Knocked Over
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YouTube/IEEE Spectrum
It's a sure sign of progress when robots learn how to adjust and fix themselves after falling down on the job. But it must be terrible for the robots who first had to practice that skill.

One robot with such a task, the Robust Humanoid Robot (shortened to RHP2), was on display at the recent International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Vancouver, Canada. The human-shaped RHP2 is a joint effort from the University of Tokyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, whose primary job is to stand back up after getting knocked over countless times.

It's as tough a job as it sounds. See the poor fellow in action below:



Its knees, hands, elbows, and other important parts of a human's body have all been reinforced to make its task of standing up easier, and it's otherwise covered in a metal frame and powered by electric motors. The team who put it together, led by Kei Okada and Masayuki Inaba, see RHP2 as being useful in fire sites or wet environments, areas where other robots might be prone to slipping or falling.

The whole scene is reminiscent of the various robots from Boston Dynamics, especially their Atlas robot who was similarly pushed around by stick-wielding humans. Atlas could also stand up on its own, slightly faster than RHP2 here, but Atlas definitely had some extra hydraulic thrust in its limbs that gave it an advantage.

Since humans don't have natural thrusters that powerful, RHP2 noticeably stands up more like a human would, using its elbows to get onto its knees, and then using its knees to stand itself back up. It's almost humanlike enough that you feel bad watching it get knocked over, but perhaps not quite.

Robots like RHP2 and Atlas aren't the only attempts at teaching robots to stand upright, as it'll be a valuable skill as more machines begin joining the workforce. Panasonic has been utilizing a form of LiDar (short for "light detection and ranging") to help robots better scan their surroundings to avoid falling over in the first place.

But accidents happen, and robots who can be knocked down and then get up again are just as handy, if not more so. Another group of researchers designing synthetic muscles for humanoid robots will also be contributing here, but in the meantime, RHP2 is performing a great service by getting knocked down with a stick. And watching it stand back up every time is inspiring, at least.
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