Thursday, April 11, 2013

Finally, a robot that can flex when it has to!

"Most humanoid robots developed over the past few decades have had stiff joints, and that's a problem if they're ever going to interact with people. Their unyielding arms and legs could injure a person if they accidentally whack someone, or if they lose balance and fall down. Lately there's been a growing interest in developing robotic joints with variable stiffness, which would improve their safety, but so far few groups have built a complete robot. Now a team from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) is approaching that goal with their robot COMAN (COmpliant huMANoid).

Modeled on a four-year-old child, COMAN is 94.5 cm tall (from foot to neck) and weighs 31.2 kg. It features 25 degrees of freedom (DOF), and a combination of stiff and compliant joints (see diagram below). The compliant joints (14 DOF) rely on series elastic actuators. These actuators—a custom design created by the IIT team—are applied to the the flexion/extension of the arms and legs, and are both small and modular, which makes them ideal for multi-DOF robots like humanoids. The researchers have also built custom torque sensors for each of the elastic joints, including a 6-axis force/torque sensor for the ankle joints. Development of the robot is funded, in part, by the European AMARSI project..."

Read the full article at its source:

Student Focus Question:s What does this development in the desing of robots tell us about the design of human bodies? Can you think of other ways that robots need further development before they can interact with humans  effectively? Submit your thoughts using the "Comments" feature of this blog, below (to the left of the envelope and pencil icons).  Ffeel free to include the name of your school, class, club, etc.) .....................................................................................................
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