“The way I like to think about this project is that we’re trying to put a humans brain inside of the robot”
Don’t worry: it’s less techno-horror-movie-esque than it sounds.
We’re getting closer and closer to robots that can roam about on their own. DARPA’s Atlas robot is climbing stairs and opening doors; Google’s Small Dog is running around, bounding over small obstacles, and presumably remembering the names of each and every person who tries to kick it over so as to destroy them later.
Even once we’ve figured out the mechanics/power hurdles of building these robots, though, we’ve got years (decades?) of AI work to do before they’ll be capable of doing much beyond specific, pre-determined tasks.
In the mean time: what about robots that don’t act completely on their own, but as puppet-like avatars for a remote human to control?
It’s a classic sci-fi concept, and is the core idea behind this robot out of MIT.
It’s a two part formula: on one end, you’ve got the robot; it’s stronger than most humans, capable of picking up objects, and more than happy to run into a burning building. On the other, you’ve got a human wearing an exoskeleton style suit that captures their motions and a pair of goggles that beams back whatever the robot is seeing.
Remember the Jaegers from Pacific Rim? It’s like that, except, you know, not the size of a skyscraper.
Building a robot controlled by a remote suit is cool enough, but this one has one helluva bonus trick: sensations like leaning and getting jostled are transmitted from the robot back to the human operator via force feedback, allowing the human operator to help the robot balance.
Sure, it’s limited to punching through drywall and crushing cans for now — but it’s hardly tough to imagine robots like this pulling people out of burning buildings within our lifetime, their operators rocking exoskeleton rigs just outside of the building.
[MIT on Youtube via Gizmodo]