Monday, April 10, 2006
After being used to explore Mars, clean toxic waste and dispose bombs, robots are moving into the home, varying from domestic ones to entertainment ones. These home helpers can be classified in two categories: single-purpose robots with simple designs and cheap prices, such as robotic vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers; and complex, expensive humanoids, which are able to perform several tasks, such as Wakamaru from Mitsubishi, Asimo from Honda and HR6 from Dr Robot, the focus of this blog. HR6 is an advanced bipedal humanoid robot developed by a Canadian company named Dr Robot. Stands about 52 centimeters tall and weighs 4.8 kilograms, it is the sixth generation of robot prototypes developed for the company's HR Project. Amazingly, it has a total of 24 degrees of freedom, thus able to walk in a similar way as human beings. In addition to a multitude of sensors, it is also equipped with a color camera, a microphone and stereo audio output. With the equipment, HR6 is able to recognize faces and voices and respond to verbal commands. Instead of microcontrollers, DSP (Digital Signal Processing) is used in HR6 as DSPs have hardware arithmetic capability that allows real-time execution of algorithms. Freescale Semiconductor's 56F83xx DSP hybrid controller with up to 60 MIPS (Million of Instructions per Second), used in HR6, handles sensing and motion control, taking input from numerous sensors including a bidirectional accelerometer that provides fast response and precise acceleration measurements in the X and Y axes. The use of DSP ensures real-time responses from HR6. HR6 has many wonderful abilities and can perform many tasks. Some of them are described below. Bipedal Walking Each arm and leg of HR6 contains 5 rotational joints while each gripper hand functions with a single joint. There are two more joints enabling the neck and head movement. Thus a total of 24 independent mechanical joints, each driven and controlled by 24 separate motors, provides HR6 with the ability of bipedal walking. With programs written to operate these motors, HR6 can generate numerous gestures and motions, alone or in combination: sit, stand, bend down, walk forward and backward, turn, lie down and even dance. However, it seems that HR6 is unable to climb up and down stairs. Survival Ability HR6 is designed to responds to some unplanned events so that it is able to “survival” under some undesirable situation without any human help. If it is knocked over or falls down, it is able to stand up quickly. Similar to modern computer, it is able to shut down to protect itself when its operating temperature exceeds some safe level. It can stop movement to prevent damage to itself or another objects when its movement is hindered. In addition, it knows when and how to recharge itself. Personal Assistant HR6 is an excellent personal assistant. It can follow verbal instructions to make appointments and if instructed it will remind the owner later. With connection to the internet, HR6 can check news, weather, gather and store relevant information, which can be retrieved by the owner later. In addition, it can check and read aloud emails. HR6 can replace the remote controls in household and it responds to verbal instructions and can even help the owner to record a program. The Entertainer HR6 can play music and sing and dance along with it. It can also take photos and make videos of what it sees. It is able to tell stories while acting them out with some simple movements at the same time. It can be used for video conferencing with connection to the internet. In addition, the owner can access his or her PC via HR6's wireless system. For more descriptions of HR6's abilities and its detailed specification, please visit http://www.e-clec-tech.com/hr6.html. You can even order one HR6 on the website, provided that you are super rich because the price is not good: $49,999.99. In addition, there are some videos of HR6 there. In addition, the next generation, HR7, is still under research. According to Dr Robot, HR7 will have five fingers to replace the grippers of the previous generations.