Roboy is a robot with a future.
He represents a new generation of robots and an innovative research direction for science and industry. This pioneering project began a good five months ago at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the University of Zurich, and its goal is to develop one of the most advanced humanoid robots within the record-breaking timeframe of only nine months. Today “Roboy” is getting a new face and can already move his arms – and soon he will be presented to the public to celebrate the laboratory’s 25th anniversary at the robotics fair “Robots on Tour”.
Successful technology transfer and innovative funding
The achievements of the 15 project partners and over 40 engineers and scientists so far are impressive. Research and industry are working together on a joint project, thus enabling a spectacular technology transfer. All involved are staunch supporters of the new research direction of “soft robotics” and aim to support Switzerland as a hub of technology. Another innovative element that’s innovative in this project is the way it is funded. “Financing the project through sponsorship and crowd funding enables us to implement an extremely ambitious project in an academic environment”, explains Prof. Rolf Pfeifer, who can look back on a comprehensive body of research activity from his 25 years as head of the AI Lab. Those who support the project benefit not only from direct access to the expertise involved but also from a little note of recognition: their names or company logos are engraved onto the “Roboy”, and for CHF 5,000 Roboy will pay a visit to the company together with Prof. Pfeifer. Roboy already has several appointments in his calendar for 2013.
Living side-by-side with service robots like Roboy
Service robots are machines that are, to a certain extent, able to execute services independently for the convenience of human beings. Since they share their “living space” with people, user- friendliness and safety, above all, are of great importance. This is why so-called “soft robotics” – the development of robots that are soft to the touch, soft in their interaction, soft and natural in their movements – will play an ever greater role in this field.
“Roboy” – a “soft robot” – is a more advanced version of his famous brother “Ecce”. Thanks to his construction as a tendon-driven robot modelled on human beings (“normal” robots have their motors in their joints), Roboy moves almost as elegantly as a human. What’s more, at a later point in the project Roboy will be covered with “soft skin”, so that interacting with him becomes safer and more pleasant. Service robots are already used in a wide variety of areas today, including for household chores, surveillance work and cleaning, but also in hospitals and care homes. Our aging population is making it necessary to keep older people as autonomous as possible for as long as possible, which means caring for aged people is likely to be an important area for the deployment of service robots. We can very safely assume that service robots will become part of our environment in the future, as is already the case today for technologies such as smartphones, laptops, etc.
Innovation and new findings thanks to Roboy
Creating humanoid robots presents researchers with great challenges. Elements such as quick, smooth movements or robust, flexible yet soft skin are difficult to recreate. Fundamental new findings are needed for this purpose. It is precisely through projects like Roboy that innovation is possible. The findings from its predecessor “Ecce” are being evaluated, leading to improvements and new materials. A robotics platform is being created to investigate and further develop the principles of tendon-driven drive technology in robotics. Regardless of whether the service robots of the future resemble humans or not, the principles applied – such as tendon-driven movement – will be put to use.
via University of Zurich – AI Lab
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