Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Who will be my sidekick? Bust out your robot dance move now, because it may become obsolete. Researchers at Purdue University and the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Japan are attempting to make humanoid robots move more like real people. The aim is to create less mechanical-looking motion and to design robots that can combine basic movements to perform tasks they have not specifically been trained to do. "If robots are to become assistive to people, then they need to have the fluidity and flexibility that humans have," says Howard N. Zelaznik, a professor of health and kinesiology at Purdue University and a researcher on the project. "For example, imagine that a tennis ball hits a bad piece of grass at Wimbledon. How does the performer quickly and fluidly change their stroke?" Employing the same type of equipment used to create human animation in movies, the team will put sensors on certain parts of people's bodies, such as their arms and legs, to monitor human movements in three dimensions. This way, they can track how people learn to perform simple tasks. They will then try to map these models onto robots. "People will make straight-line movements with timing goals, circular movements with timing goals," Zelaznik says. "For example, your task is to draw a 10-centimeter circle and complete the movement exactly in 400 milliseconds. They learn to make these movements with the correct durations. We're going to see whether we can instantiate [that] learning onto robots." The sensors the researchers will use consist of small plastic markers that house coils of wire and a magnet in the center of the area where the humans' movements are tracked. When people move, the coils of wire traveling in the magnetic field will produce electrical currents. A computer can read the information by perceiving changes in the electrical currents caused by the motion. The National Science Foundation's Information Technology Research program is funding the effort with a four-year, $900,000 grant. For now, Zelaznik says the robot is purely a research device, and the project's success will dictate its future. But advances in humanoid robot technology may come at a particularly opportune time, since a surge in these robots is expected. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE) 2004 World Robotics Survey, released October 2004, predicts a large increase in humanoid robots in the next few years. UNECE forecasts the worldwide market for industrial robots will swell from 81,800 units in 2003 to 106,000 in 2007, an annual growth rate of about 7 percent. One of the most well-known humanoid robots is Honda's ASIMO, a semiautonomous astronaut-looking creation that greets guests at the Honda plant in Tokyo and has toured the U.S. Kawada Industries in Japan recently introduced the HRP-2, a humanoid that can lie down and get up. Zelaznik says Purdue and the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology are trying to come up with something different from the rest. "In the past, robots have performed very straightforward tasks," he says. "What we think is novel is that we're trying to create a humanoid that can perform tasks it has never been trained to do." Zelaznik is now collaborating with robotics expert George Lee, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, and says, "The combination of our expertise is going to be quite exciting." Now let us look at currently what Japan has achieved in aspects of modelling human beings? Robot vs Man in Virtual World An Eagle Digital System was used for a demonstration of a real robot fighting with a real man in a virtual world. The University of Tokyo's Nakamura & Yamane Laboratory demonstrated their intelligent humanoid robot, UT-u2. The Eagle Digital system was used as the "eyes" of UT-u2. Motions of the real man, captured with the Eagle Digital system, were exported to UT-u2. The robot has his own brain (consisting of a unique processor and software, called "Animato Core") which recognized the position and motion of the man. UT-u2 then counterattacked the man in the virtual world, based on real world information http://www.motionanalysis.com/images/movies/robotexhibition.mpg Download the video(41M), for the exciting fight. Suggest use netransport or net ants with 10 connections. Less than 3 minuates in NUS intranet. From the video, we could observe. (1) The robot is reactive. It will perform counteracting action once detecting attacker’s position and motion. (2) It punches like real human beings and promptly (3) It will not actively attack the opponent unless it is attacked. From all those features observed, the future version of the robots could be used as the potential body guard required by those need 24/7 safeties, such as elderly group, children, political leaders. The advantages of the body-guard robots: (a) It is almost invulnerable to any form of physical attack from human beings (b) It could detect the incoming bullets, laser beam, and other form of attack with the embedded sensors, and block those perceived as danger objects with its metal made-up body. (c) It will not actively attack unless it perceived being attacked The disadvantages or potential problems: (a) Ethical issues. If a human being is killed or injured by the robot, who will be in responsibility, the owner, or the robot itself. Who will be punished? (b) Cost. Such an intelligent robot will definitely be costly. Is it easy to be widely accepted? (c) The extreme case when the robot loses control. To what extent, the robot should be assistive is still an open issue under discussion. Robot should be a machine just simply following the preset program or should be given chance to develop into having thinking ability on which many issues would rise up?