Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have created the first full-body remote control system that transmits a human’s motion to a two-legged robot. Thus, when a human operator walks, runs or jumps, the robot does the same in a synchronized manner.
In the past, MIT researchers had achieved this only with the upper part of the body (the HERMES Robotic system), and now -for the first time- they have improved their technology to automatically transfer all the body movement of a human in a two-legged robot, which mimics human. At the same time, the robot transmits to human information about its own state of balance.
The new system called ”Little HERMES”, which is based on a special electronic vest worn by the operator, and a special algorithm that allows the robot to ”translate” the signals from man, it is hoped that it will give robots faster the ability to gain more physical and synchronized movements like human.
The researchers, led by João Ramos, who made the relevant publication in the robotics journal ”Science Robotics”, said they are hoping to further improve their system by using more sophisticated two-legged robots, minimizing the lag of communication between operator and robot and seeking new ways of human-machine communication, for example through biosignals.
Such robots will be ideal for use in cases of natural or other disasters where people cannot reach (building fire, explosion in a nuclear plant, leakage of chemical gases, etc.). To date even the best autonomous humanoid robots do not have comparable with people movement abilities in real conditions, often losing their balance, stumbling and falling down.
That’s why some scientists develop remote control methods that allow robots to have more physical and complex movements in space. The big technical challenge is the direct dynamic synchronization of the human-operator with the robot. With the new system, whenever the human operator feels that the robot is going to fall, he adjusts his position and movement so that the robot can… come straight.
So far the remote-controlled robot can -with the guidance of a man- open a heavy door, lift or throw heavy objects, maintaining its balance. Researchers are working to improve it even further so that in the future it is able to move comfortably in a zone of natural or other disaster.