In what could be described as one small step for a robot, but a giant leap for robot-kind, a trio of humanoid machines were introduced Thursday, each with the ability to walk in a human-like manner.
Each bipedal robot has a strikingly human-like gait and appearance. Arms swing for balance. Ankles push off. Eyeballs are added for effect.
One of the robots, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is named Toddler for its modest stature and the side-to-side wobble of its stride. Denise, a robot created by researchers at Delft University in the Netherlands, stands about as tall as the average woman.
Toddler is the smart one of the bunch. While the others rely on superb mechanical design, Toddler has a brain with less power than that of an ant, but it is able to learn new terrain, “allowing the robot to teach itself to walk in less than 20 minutes, or about 600 steps,” scientists said.
The breakthroughs could change the way humanoid robots are built, and they open doors to new types of robotic prostheses — limbs for people who have lost them. The robots are also expected to shed light on the biomechanics of human walking.
“These innovations are a platform upon which others will build,” said Michael Foster, an engineer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) who oversaw the three projects. “This is the foundation for what we may see in robotic control in the future.”