The Human-Robotics Interaction 2012 conference takes place this week, offering a meeting ground for computer scientists and robot engineers to compare notes. As always, the challenge remains how to move their creations out of the labs and into the marketplace. After years of false starts, we may not be too far away from the day when these inventions truly become mainstream, as advances in the craft pave the way for a new generation of increasingly humanlike robots.
In the accompanying image, Actroid F from Tokyo entertainment firm Kokoro can move its eyes, mouth, head, and back. Cameras and face-tracking software follow a remote operator so facial expressions and head movements are reproduced in the robot in a master-slave relationship via Internet link.
Yamaha's HRP-4C was a big hit at Tokyo's Digital Content Expo in 2010. Reportedly designed to look like an average Japanese woman between the ages of 19 and 29, the 5-foot (ish) humanoid from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology can sing from a preselected list of tunes and even strut on stage.
Aldebaran Robotics' Nao humanoid robot is used for research and education. In fact, the robot was used by researchers at the University of Connecticut's Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention in their work with autistic children. Turns out that children suffering from autism spectrum disorder often feel more comfortable with robots than with other people -- the reason being that the interactions with robots are "simpler and more predictable and the children are in control of the social interaction," according to researcher Anjana Bhat.
Here's another shot of the Nao. The 23-inch droid has been outfitted with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and two HD cameras linked to a field-programmable gate array for faster processing of both video streams.
NASA and General Motors co-developed the Robonaut, which was sent up via space shuttle to the International Space Station where it is helping out with daily chores. The 300-pound humanoid robot -- the second generation in its line -- is able to work with some of the same tools that are used by station crew members.
An Osaka University professor, Hiroshi Ishiguro, developed a humanoid robot he developed called Telenoid R1, shaped like a child and composed of minimal human features such as a head, a face, and upper body.
Meet the Geminoids: From left to right, models F, XX and DK. And some humans. The remote-controlled robots can mimic the facial expressions, lip movements, and body motions of a human user through motion-tracking gear and an Internet link. You can read more on the Gemenoid DK page as well as in the ongoing coverage of the robotics scene by CNET's Tim Hornyak.
The HAL-5 exoskeleton robotics suit by Tokyo-based company Cyberdyne, is a wearable device that helps ordinary people accomplish extraordinary feats, such as lifting objects they otherwise couldn't. a sensor attached to the skin, "HAL" captures faint biosignals on the skin's surface that result from messages sent from the brain to muscles when a person attempts to move. A computer analyzes how much power the wearer intends to generate, then calculates the amount of torque needed to put limbs into action.