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Humanoid robot finds hurdles can help

posted 31 Jan 2011, 07:55 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 31 Jan 2011, 07:58 ]

Robotics have taken another step forward in Japan with new technology that allows robots to detect and exploit unexpected obstacles in their path. The HRP-2 robot, which was created as an open-source machine for the testing of new technologies, can now support itself when it falls, opening up new possibilities for applications in everyday life. Rob Muir reports.

IBARAKI, JAPAN - HRP-2 already knows how to walk, climb stairs and pick itself up off the floor. Now it's learning how to take advantage of objects in its path, in much the same way as a humans. Robots in the past have been developed to detect and avoid obstacles. Researcher Abderrahmane Kheddar says HRP-2 is the first to learn how to exploit them.

CNRS-AIST JOINT ROBOTICS LABORATORY DIRECTOR ABDERRAHMANE KHEDDAR SAYING:

"This robot has capabilities actually that have been shaped as a human. We humans, when involved in especially constrained and cumbersome environments, we generally use all our body for locomotion, for manipulation, and beyond."

HRP-2 has been developed as an open source, research platform. The robot's nascent ability to utilise objects for its own benefit, is the result of a collaboration between enfineers ans scientists from Japan and France. Researcher Sebastian Langagne sees a day when HRP-2 could be deployed in dangerous situations such as rescue missions.

CNRS-AIST JOINT ROBOTICS LABORATORY POST-DOC RESEARCHER SEBASTIEN LANGAGNE SAYING:

"The objective of our work is to get our robot to move in environments where the ground is not always even. For example dangerous environments where there are rocks and a lot of objects that would still be considered as obstacles. The robot has to be able to use those objects to move around."

The robot might also one day be able to replace humans in testing consumer products, particularly those for the elderly who often rely on stationary object for support.

The team says there are challenges to overcome, such as increasing the robot's touch sensitivity and it's reaction time. But they say in two to three years HRP2 may well be ready for action in the real world.

Rob Muir, Reuters

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