The Kojiro robot moves more naturally than other humanoids due to is hi-tech muscular-skeletal system
Ever dreamed of having a robot servant who would do all the boring chores around the house? Well mechanised domestic staff have come one step closer, thanks to an android being developed in Japan.
Researchers at Tokyo University's JSK Robotics Laboratory, have created a humanoid called Kojiro, who is learning how to mimic how we walk.
What makes him unique is that he has a skeletal structure similar to that of humans, which means he moves in a more natural fashion, and bends and twists via his artificial spine.
The team, led by Professor Nakanishi, said this newly developed spine would allow them to manufacture lighter and more flexible robots in the future to serve in the home.
In one scientific paper, they wrote: 'Currently normal humanoid robots are not suitable for working in our daily environment.
'Lack of safety and versatility is the main reason; their hard and heavy bodies can hurt humans or surrounding objects, and they can do limited tasks compared with what humans do in daily life.'
Kojiro, named after a famous C16th Japanese swordsman, bears an uncanny similarity to the computer game character Megaman
Traditional robots have limbs and torsos powered by heavy motors at the joints.
However in Kojiro, the motors are lightweight and used to pull cables attached to different locations on the body. This simulates how our own muscles and tendons contract and relax when we move.
The sophisticated system of around 100 such tendon-muscle structures work together to give Kojiro 60 degrees of freedom.
Sensors were added to some of the joints to keep track of Kojiro's various postures and an accelerometer and two gyroscopes were added to help the robot balance.
The humanoid is also made mostly from light and flexible materials, which would make him less of a menace around the home.
The researchers found the most difficult challenge was finding a way to make such a sophisticated robot walk.
'The system has strong nonlinearity and is hard to model precisely. To control such a system, a kind of learning method is needed,' the team wrote.
At present the scientists are testing Kojiro's smaller movements using a games console controller.
The team plan to tweak the computer algorithms that control the robot's movements as they go and hope it will one day be able to handle complex movements using all of its limbs. Then perhaps one day, you will find Kojiro serving you breakfast in bed.
For further information visit the IEEE Spectrum website.