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Humanoid robot runs on Linux power

Japanese scientists are planning to demonstrate a walking, Linux-operated, humanoid robot next month at an open-source event in Europe.

By Graeme Wearden

LONDON--Japanese scientists are planning to demonstrate a walking, Linux-operated, humanoid robot next month in Europe.

The two-legged H7 robot is around 54 inches tall and weighs 121 pounds. It has 36 joints--or "degrees of freedom"--which H7's developers claim means it has full body motion. An onboard computer, built around two 750MHz Pentium III processors, runs the RT-Linux operating system.

The appearance--at the Embedded Linux Expo from Nov. 26 to 29 in Milan, Italy--will be the H7 robot's first visit to Europe. Researchers at the JSK Laboratory in Japan created the robot and hope it will become a useful platform for robotic developments--especially in the field of artificial intelligence.

"Human-shaped robots are well suited for operating within environments designed for real humans," said Satoshi Kagami, a senior research scientist at the Digital Human Laboratory of Tokyo's National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology. Kagami added that H7 would "provide an experimental research platform for full-body integrated sensing and control."

Video footage of H7 shows it is capable of walking unaided, both in a straight line and in a crab-like shuffle. The robot contains batteries and can communicate to a network via a wireless Ethernet connection.

The team behind the H7 claims that the robot is fully self-contained and can be operated without external cables. On the video footage released by JSK Laboratories, H7 is connected to an external device--possibly a power source--which one researcher pushes around on a trolley after H7.

H7 is already equipped with collision-checking technology that allows it to tell when it has walked into an obstacle. The scientists at JSK Laboratories are already working on 3D vision functionality that could allow H7 to avoid collisions altogether.

The RT-Linux OS is designed for robotic applications, as well as data acquisition and systems control functions. Fujitsu recently launched its own RT-Linux robot, called Hoap-1. Fujitsu has released details of the internal architecture of Hoap-1, to help researchers and enthusiasts to design powerful applications for the robot.

Staff writer Graeme Wearden reported from London.