In a public demonstration held in Tokyo on March 28, a human-sized android showed off its weightlifting skills by successfully picking up a 30-kilogram (66-pound) package from a desk and lifting a 66-kilogram (145-pound) humanoid doll out of bed.
University of Tokyo professor Yasuo Kuniyoshi and his team of engineers developed the 155-centimeter (61-inch) tall, 70-kilogram (154-pound) robot last year. A recent software upgrade allows the robot to move more like a human by constantly adjusting the power of its arm movements based on data received from 1800 tactile sensors embedded in its artificial skin.
It is this system of sensor-based control and not large motors that gives the robot its strength. Large motors are not safe for use in household robots, explains Kuniyoshi. Only a small amount of power is applied at each of this robot’s joints, but it can successfully move heavy objects by using the tactile sensors to regulate how it lifts and carries things.
The droid demonstrated different maneuvers for different situations. To lift the 30-kilogram package, the robot used one arm to slowly slide it to the edge of the desktop, where it grabbed the package with its other arm to pick it up. To remove the 66-kilogram dummy from bed, the android slid its arms under the body, lifted it slightly and backed away.
Kuniyoshi says this robot’s ability to lift such heavy objects with ease is unusual, and he hopes further improvements will earn the robot a job in nursing care or in the moving industry.
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