Currently, biped robots are still known for their awkwardness, their stilted walking doing little to make them seem human. This remarkable robot, dubbed Sarcos, is able to better capture the sense of balance that humans (well, most of us) are known for.
If you’ve ever had a toy robot that walks, you know how easy it is for the thing to fall over and look pitiful as it continues to move its arms and legs, like a turtle on its back. Likewise, it’s one of the reasons why we don’t have giant robots or human-piloted mechas. Every step a human takes is an act of balance from one leg to the other, and watching pretty much any animal in motion (particularly running) is like watching a work of art. Instead, most robots use wheels or treads, or have many legs like these Hexapod Robots to make it easier to move without toppling over.
Ben Stephens aims to also make Sarcos able to dance, a lofty goal considering the difficulties still inherent in simple walking. The arm movements you see in the video are quite fantastic, though. While not as fluid as humans, they’re still flexible and expressive, no doubt able to do more dance moves than, well, The Robot. Even more important, though, Sarcos is able to compensate for minor losses of balance, such as when bumping into things or being bumped into. With some of the experiments, they give a healthy push to the robot from behind, and it responds by stepping forward much like you would if you found yourself lurching forward. Even in response to softer pushes, the robot seems to lean back, although that could just be the backup harness ensuring the expensive robot doesn’t fall on its face.
It will be great to see just how far robotic technology goes in the near future, especially with motion-capture technology becoming prevalent enough that owners of the Microsoft Xbox’s Kinect peripheral have it at their fingertips. For other incredible robots, check out the Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot or this Heavy-Lifting Biped Walker.