In labs across the world robots are developing so rapidly it’s like the arrival of a new species. What has taken humans millions of years of evolution, robots have acheived in just decades. They look like us, move like us, and even starting to think like us. We already share our planet with 9 million rtobots and they’re multiplying rapidly, whether we like iot or not. 3d printers are 3d printing parts for new 3d printers.

March 2011, a devastating earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan. Explosions and fires at the fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant left the area dangerously radioactive. If a robot could have opened that valce, the entire disaster could have been averted. Going inside even for a few minutes was life treatening. It was the perfect time for Japan’s cutting edge robots to come to the rescue, but none did. The real tragedy was that if simply some robot could have gone into the radioactive areas and simply some valves could have been turned, or some switches could have been flicked, or hoses attached, a lot of the meltdown could have been prevented. The question was, when robots were needed the most, just how come they weren’t effective, and so I think that lead to a lot of self reflection of the japanese. After decades of research, where were our robot heroes? For generations science fiction has protrayed robots as our loyal servants. But our imagineation has taken us a lot further and now robots can do all sorts of things. In 2013, at a race track on the outskirts of miami, DARPA the research arm of the US military, challenged 16 teams from around the workd to build rescue robots that can help save lives in a disaster. The spinoffs of DARPA have always gone far beyond the military, the internet, GPS, bionic arms, even SIRI, were all fueled with DARPA funding. If DARPA succeeeds in creating rescue robots, the same technology could be used to create robots that take care of our elderly, babysit our kids, clean up after us. DARPA has set up an obstacle course for bots. The robots must perform basic tasks like opening a door, turning a valve, drilling a hole in a wall, walking over rubble, even driving a car. Back in the 1950s alan turing, one of the founders of artificial intelligence saiud that the best thing we can do is build a robot that has TV cameras for its eyes, mottors from its legs, run around the countryside and learn from the real world. But it was technologically too hard in the 50s, so he said lets leave the physical interaction for later and work on more abstract problems like intelligence. The field of Artificial Intelligence or AI has already built machines thsat beat us at chess. Trade stocks with lightning speed, and sreach for anything we want in an ionstant, like google and wikipedia. But when it comes to robotics, progress has been painfully slow. Some of the biggest prblems robots face are things we human sually take for granted. Like mobility, Manual dextrerity, and the ability to see and understand our environemnt. These are the challenges the world robotics teams will tackle in the DARPA competition. But what is the best way to make a machine that can move through our world? Does it need to walk on 2 feet like us? Most roboticists think the answer is yes. The shape of the robot is dictated by what it needs to do, our door handles are the same height, steps are the same size, if robots want to get around it needs to look like us. Unless a robot is the shape and size of a human, it wont be able to navigate and move around in an environment designed by humans. Robots will need to open doors, climb stairs, and avoid obstacels. But getting around on 2 feet isn’t easy, even for us. What does it take to give a robot this intrinsic humanability, it’s one of the biggest prblems facing roboticists today… walking. Jim Pratt working At the institute for Machine Cognition in Pensacola Florida, leads one of the teams competing in DARPA is developing its own software to run its own robot, Atlas. But writing uniqeue software is hard to run. It takes 2 million lines of code to run atlas, and 500,000 just to put one foot in front of the other. The interplay of software and hardware keeps the robot on its feet. An ability that took hundreds of thousands of human evolution to perfet. For Atlas, for eyes, ATLAS has a stereocamera and a couple of fish eye lenses sticking out the side of its head, along with a spinning laser called LIDAR that scans everything in the world around it and creates a 3D model of its environment. ATLAS uses a small cylinder in its put that contains gyroscopes and accelerometers that tell it whre it is how its’ moving and balance, and tell where its limbs are in relation to each other. This allows ATLAS to stand on one foot like a ballerina. Another robot, Hubo, prgrammed by cousins paul-oh and yun-hobo. At the korea advanced institute of science and tehcnology, Jun Ho Oh is also doing some soul searching. The cousins decided to add wheels to hubo’s knees and castors on its toes, Yun calls it “The Kneeling Prayer Mode” and the robot folds in its legs and uses it to roll around for long distances while using its legs for short distance obstacles. For short distance walk, and for long distance wheels, that way its much more stable. Humans dont have wheels on the knees, but there’s no reason we cant add that to a robot. But to assist rescue workers in the real world, robots will also need hands, with the kind of strength and dexterity to lift heavy hoses, drill into walls, sodder, and saw.

Kuri housekeeper robot, robot hotel in Japan, the list goes on. Machines are really good at some stuff, in fact they’re better at certain things than we are, like chess, poker, go, they’re better drivers than we are, they might even be better at recognizing human facial expressions than we are. But there’s one place we have the edge over robots, our hands. Our hands are remarkable, look at them, there are more than 20 degrees of freedom in them, there are more than 30 muscle actuators to control them. There’s nothing in the robotics world that has close to the versatility of the human hand… but we’re seeing advances in robotics all the time, and perhaps one day in the future, robotic hands will make ours look like fleashy colored tarantulas or something. One group that has been creating robotic hands for years is the shadow robotics company in london. They built the shadwo Dextrous hand, it has 20 degrees of freedom and little sensors in the fingertips so it can feel what it picks up. You might have seen them in motion, you might have seen them in motion with the Molay robotic shove, a pair of disembodied arms that can make a really mean crab bisk. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Wsshington have created what’s called a “droit manipulation platform”. Hardware is just half of the robotic hand equation, the other half is software, the list of instructions that your robotuic hands will follow when you want them to do whatever they’re supposed to do. In this case, the researchers went with a different approach. They went with machine learning, they taught the hands how to pick up and manipulate things, anddo different motions to the point where the hands could actually learn how to pick up a pair of coffee beans and rotate them in their hands. But this is a huge leap for robotics. But you might be asking yourself why do robots need hands? Whats wrong with clamps? Well most of the robots we’ve built so far have been siongle purpose machines, meaning they do one task and they do it over and over again, and in that case you dont really need hands. For example, if you’re welding car frames together you just need a welding tool. But as robots enter our daily lives more frequently and we start to ask them to do different tasks for us, you need a more versatile tool, and a hand is a pretty good solution. Also research into this area could benefit people who’ve lost one or both of their hands. In early 2016, Jay Chu of the Yale Grab lab and Emmanual Totorov of the University of Washington unveiled their work, the most life like biomemeetic hand to date. They did a laser scan of a real hand and used a 3D printer to create a replica. They have 30 mechanical tendons that replicate the muscles in our hands, and to watch this thing move is beautiful and weird at the same time. They hope it can act as a scaffold for research into regenerative medicine so that people can perhaps regrow a limb. We could even use it as a foundation for future research ion robot prostheses.The human hand really distinguishes humans from all other species, even monkeys.Rich Walker and Armando De La Rosa at the Shadow Robot Company built “the Shadow Hand” to get as close to the human hand as possible. They’ve got the hands handling lab equipment and pippets, in order to replace scientists who work with very dangerous bacteria or viruses in a clean room. Robots can’t get infected so they are the perfect lab techs. For the robots in the DARPA challenge, strength and precision are a must. Finding the balance between them has been a challenge. Brett Kennady and his team at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed Robosimian to tackle this exact problem. It uses a small hand with 3 fingers, to privde the strength, Kennedy uses a technology called the Cam Hand to do most of the work and get a grasp, hold on to everything it has to. Many teams are using another gripper, designed with 3 fingers that can wrap around a variety of objects and even pick up something small. It can use a hand tools or open doors. Robotic gripper arms have already made their way onto the factory floor, attached to massive robotic arms that are as robust as they are precise. They build cars, lift heavy warehouse boxes, pack beer, sort through anything and everything from batteries to pancakes. Doing the jobs many people consider repetitive and downright boring. But some experts fear as robots move beyond the factory into the real world, they’ll take on a lot more.

Chimp, a robot from Carnagie Melon University uses 6 different cameras located on the front and back of its head and a spinning head called LIGONE , it sends data about its environment to its operators and the human operators let the humans recognize objects for it and tell it what to grab, like a valve. it was the first robot to finish the course in the DARPA competition and complete all 8 tasks and came in 2nd behin IHMC’s ATLAS, and behind Yung-Ho’s robot, Hubo, it completed all tasks by rolling on its knees or standing on its feet, coming in first. The robots may have moved slow, but just like a toddler, they are taking baby steps into our world. In fact, a few months after the finals, Boston Dynamics, the makers of the ATLAS robot, took this updated version for a stroll in a snow covered woods, while it sumples, it quickly recovers its balance just as we would. Robots compared to what we had 20 years ago, have come a long way. Theres no question that developing rescue robot s with the potential to save lives makes a lot of sense. But the potential for a lot of other applications remains unclear. The time is now to think about their role in our lives. As we face, the rise of the robot.


The disaster in Fukushima called for something that could safely confront the danger. The future is just around the corner. In a workshop near mount fuji, a robot 3.8 meters tall and weighs 40 tons, it is a giant humanoid mecha named “Kuratas KR1”. Kuratas is a temporary artist creation. The artist calles Kuratas a work of art, but its actually a soophisticated peice of machinery. A person seated inside can control the robot, move its limbs, and grab things. The artist says he was inspired in science fiction anime. That vision sustained Kogoro Kuratas as he worked in solitude. Robots now think like we do, move like we do, and even sacrifice themselves for us.

The Fukushima disaster accelerated the Japanese push to develop robots with human traits and we are now beginning to see the fruits of their labor. Robots can take over when things get dangerous. They can plow through rubble, climb ladders, even make repairs. The japanbese are turnoing to robots to accomplish all of these tasks. Also their declining population has pushed for more robots to take over the jobs of those who get too old with no young people to replace them. ASIMO was created by Honda’s research and development subsidiary in Wako City. ASIMO is japan’s crowning achievements and researchers continue to make improvements, it can now jump up and down.. You might one day see an Asimo in your very home. ASIMO’s most innovative feature is its advanced intelligence. The robot can act and think on its own without human intervention. That’s made possible by sensors that replicate our 5 sensors. Asimo;’s head contains 8 microphones, it uses them to listen and engage in covnersation. 2 cameras work as eyes and use data to identify humans, it has a facial recognition software. ASMIO’S AI analyzes a vast array of information, that’s how it understands people’s commands and takes appropriate actions. It also has a sophisticated sense of touch, it also has a sense of touch, its fingers can make subtle movements like a persopn’s Sensors in the fingertiops can also guage the hardness of objects. Asimo knows how hard to grab a paper cup and a hard container. Asimo will one day be used as a waiter. Animated shows like Astroboy, Dodaimon, and Gundam have reportedly inspired many of the engineers themselves to build their own robot. ASIMO’S physical capabilities are revolutionary, the robot can walk and run. Reaching speeds of up to 9 km an hour. Development started in 1986 and we are now seeing the fruits of the labor. The fukushima accident also encourage US developers to design emergency response robots. Department of defense officials have spearheaded the effort. Before they had shown no interest in humanoid robots, now they view them as vital for disaster response and rescue. A company called Boston Dynamics is leading the development work. It has already built several military robots. The first american made humanoid robot for disaster robot is called ATLAS. Before, US designers focused on robots with specialized functions. Why the sudden interest in humanoid robots? Traveling over debris, prying open valves, using tools for repairs, these are only possible with humanoid robots that can navigate doors and stairs. ATLAS can easily climb stairs and jump from a height of nearly a meter. It can navigate obstacles using arms and legs. It can already handle more demanding environments than Asimo can. ATLAS is loaded with tech originally designed for muilitary robots.  a web of hydraulic cables cover’s ATLAS’s body, they form a muscular suit of armor for clearing debris. Another important technology comes from military robot engineering. This machine’s joints have a wide range of motions, they allow for flexibility that humans can’t achieve. Atlas’ joints can move in 28 different ways. ATLAS can crawl through narrow spaces and stand sudeen shocks. DARPA’s challenge consisted of 8 tasks, 1) driving a vehicle, 2) walking over rubble, 3) removing obstacles, 4) opening blocked doors, 5) using tools to break down walls, 6) climbing ladders, 7) turning valves, and 8) soddering and making repairs. DARPA provided contestants with 4 million dollars in funding. South Korea is quickly catching up with Japan in humanoid robotics. KAIST is a government funded lab for the advancement of science and technology, researchers there wqere among the first to express interest in DARPA’s robotics challenge. Hubo was modeled on ASIMO which honda spent 14 years developing. But HUbo was developed in just 5 years years. Hubo has been undergoing a major upgrade, ahead of the competition. It can bend backward at the waist while walking to handle all kinds of environments, it can quickyl pick up tools. The tests were going well. Oh Jun-Ho is the professor leading a joint team with the US to develop a better brain for Hubo.

Here is the newest version of ATLAS walking out in the snow, he’s out for a stroll. The robot was built to tackle the toughest terrain in the toughest conditions. To cope with the obstacles and terrain in our human environment, Atlas’ balance is guided by dozens of onboard sensors. For the legs, the most improtant thing is varied in it are hydraulic components underneatht the cover on the leg is a series of hydraulic valves that take the high pressure fluid that’s generated in the upper body and redirect it into the actuators that make the joints move. The actuators is kind of like the muscles for the robots and the valves are what control those vessels. The colored channels on the computer represent little veins where the fluid runs through the legs. ATLAS has a cousin called Handle, with wheels. The upper body is actually borrwoed from ATLAS, arms and torso are basically the same. Boston Dynamics have a reputation for being very mean to their robots, but they’re only trying to push them to the brink of what awaits them in the real world. The sci fi movie Chappie has many elements of this. A police robot that gains an artifical intelligence and struggles to survive in the real world.