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Top 5 robots of all time

The robotics field is advancing very rapidly. Recently, folks at MIT managed to create a soft autonomous robot called Meshworm, which works like an earthworm and is able to resist most of the bashes, drops and rough terrain coming on its way. Like an earthworm which depends on its body compression and contraction to move forward, Meshworm also uses peristalsis to move around. More on Meshworm can be read over here.

With technology progressing at this pace, let’s take a look at top 5 humanoid robots of all times for your delight.

5) Sony Qrio

QRIO or “Quest for cuRIOsity” was originally christened as Sony Dream Robot. The QRIO prototypes were developed and manufactured by Sony Intelligence Dynamics Laboratory, Inc. and was designed to be successor of AIBO (Artificial Intelligence robot), but it never made it to the shelves due to the high production cost involved in the manufacturing process. It’s essentially a bipedal humanoid entertainment robot which stood approximately 0.6 m (2 feet) tall and weighed 7.3 kg (16 pounds).

Sony pulled the plugs on AIBO in January, 2006, and development of QRIO was also stopped on the same day. Before the cancellation, QRIO had reportedly gone through various development, testing and scalability stages in a bid to become commercially available in next three to four years. It’s not know how many prototypes of QRIO are in existence, but up to ten QRIO have been seen performing a dance routine together and several videos of the same can be found on the web. The robot even set a Guinness World Record in 2005 by being the first bipedal robot capable of running at 23 cm/s. QRIO’s slogan was “Makes life fun, makes you happy!”. Below is a video of the robot in action.

4) Sony AIBO

AIBO (Artificial Intelligence robot) is another robotic project from Sony. It was initially launched in 1999, but was discontinued in 2006, along with QRIO and several other products. In Japanese, AIBO means pal or partner. AIBO was one of of several types of robotic pets that were designed and manufactured by Sony.
AIBO is basically a robotic dog that that is able to walk and “see” its environment using the on board cameras. It is even able to recognize spoken commands in languages including Spanish and English. Sony AIBO is considered to autonomous robots due to the fact that it is able to learn and develop its thinking based on external stimuli received from its owner, environment and other AIBO friends.

You may be wondering how the system of AIBO works? The AIBO robot works on something called AIBOware, a software routine that is stored on AIBO’s pink colored Memory Stick. The Life AIBOware fundamentally allows the system to be grown from a pup to adult while going through various stages in which it learns stuff by interacting with its owner. The Explorer AIBOware on the other hand allows the owner to interact with a mature AIBO while being able to recognize up to 100 voice commands. AIBO also works without AIBOware in the clinical mode, however, it’s able to perform only few basic activities in this mode. The robot retailed for $2000 and came with wireless connectivity, scheduler, remote controller, news reader, music player, and a diary to do things which a real pet can’t do even today. Below is a video of AIBO in action.

3) Kawada HRP-4

The Humanoid Robotics Project (HRP) is a project that aims at developing general domestic helper robots. The project is sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), led by Kawada Industries and supported by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Inc. HRP-4 is a product of the HRP initiative.

HRP-4 incorporates an attractive human like “slim athlete” design. With HRP-4, the project has aimed at bringing a new, light-weighted and slim body while having all the goodness of previous models including HRP-2 and HRP-3 where in which the robots were designed to coexist with humans and assist or replace human operations.
Implementing things like optimized specifications and component sharing/simplification has reduced the manufacturing cost by a great extent, which should benefit in mass producing the next generation of HRP robot. The system of HRP-4 makes use of OpenRTM-aist, which is a set of national and international software assets, thus improving proficiency of the research effort.
Scientists are still working on development of HRP-4 which will finally help it evolve into a robot that will be seen working in our living spaces, ultimately improving quality of our life.
Below is a video of HRP-4 in all its glory

2) Honda ASIMO

Honda started its development on humanoid in the 1980s, and several prototypes were created, including ASIMO. Introduced in 2000, ASIMO stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, and no, it has nothing to do with Isaac Asimov. Honda always aimed for creating a walking robot which can adapt and interact in human situations and ultimately improve quality of life.

As opposed to its predecessors, ASIMO was the first ever prototype from Honda to make use of predicted movement control which enabled it to have better joint flexibility which reflected in its a smoother, more human-like walking motion.

Since the first generation, Honda has showed off several models having improved abilities over the original ASIMO’s mobility assistance tasks. With each updation, ASIMO is capable of running at increased speeds. The prototype which was shown in 2005 ran at 3.7 mph, a speed that is twice as fast as the original ASIMO is capable of. In December 2006, ASIMO fell off in an attempt to climb stairs at a presentation in Tokyo, however, it was seen running, kicking a football and walking up and down the stairs at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Honda updated ASIMO’s intelligence technologies in 2007 which makes the robot capable of working with other robots of its kind in a coordinated fashion. It is even able to return to its charging point when it’s out of juice. At 4 Ft 3 inch tall and 53 kilograms, it took 15 years to get it into today’s shape. Perhaps it is a foundation for future robots which are expected to be cleverer than humans.
Below is a commercial video of ASIMO

1) Aldebaran Nao

Nao (pronounced now) is yet another autonomous programmable humanoid robot, but the cutest of all. Nao is developed by a French startup company called Aldebaran Robotics from Paris. Project Nao was launched in 2004 and the development effort on the robot began soon after that. In 2007, Sony’s AIBO robot which we discussed about earlier was replaced by Nao in the Robot Soccer World Cup (Robocup) Standard Platform League (SPL), an international robotics competition.

In a bid to make the development more transparent, the company behind Nao decided to release the robot’s controlling source code in May 2011, thus making the development an open source initiative.

In December 2011, Aldebaran launched the Nao Next Gen which incorporates hardware and software enhancements such as HD cameras, anti-collision systems, improved robustness, and a faster walking speed, thanks to the US $13 million raised in venture funding by Intel Capital.

All versions of Nao feature an inertial measurement unit with accelerometer, gyrometer and four ultrasonic sensors as a standard as it provides stability and positioning within a given space. The Nao Next Gen is expected to use Intel Atom @ 1.6GHz and have around 21 to 25 degrees of freedom. The robot can behave on its own and can be programmed to do much more. Below is a video of Nao in action.

While these robots may not be quite ready to replace humans in day to day life, but it’s a good start nevertheless. If scientists work hard, a day when robots will conquer Earth isn’t far, and they’ve to make sure that doesn’t happen. What are your thoughts on these robotic creatures? Would you buy yourself a robot which can make a sandwich for you or do the dishes? Share your thoughts using the comment form below.

Update

Geminoid:

One of our readers pointed out the existence of Geminoid, which apparently looks much more human and puts all the other robots listed above to shame. It’s an incredibly realistic robot that is indistinguishable from a real human. You got to see it to believe it. The above video is of Geminoid DK, which is the first Geminoid based on a non-Japanese person, and also the first one to flaunt a beard. Apparently, each of these robot cost US $200,000 to build. Geminoid series of ultra realistic androids are built by Japanese firm called Kokoro in collaboration with Osaka University’s roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro. The Geminoid DK shown in the video was apparently created to exactly look like associate professor Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University in Denmark.

All the movements and expressions of all the Geminoids out there are remotely controlled by an operator equipped with a computer. The computer is fitted with motion-capture system that tracks facial expressions and head movements. Though highly advanced, it isn’t autonomous like most of the robots listed above, nevertheless, Geminoid looks very promising and it isn’t hard to imagine full autonomy in not-so-distant future.