Monday, May 22, 2006

"ROBOTICS: Robots march (well, walk) in land of Disney"

Humanoid robots seized the spotlight at the IEEE's International Conference on Robotics and Automation here last week. All told, more than 1,200 engineers explored all the angles and scales of robots in upwards of 750 sessions covering everything from nanobots to full-sized robotic automobiles. But humanoid robots dominated a host of sessions at the Disney World Hilton, ranging from pure theoretical studies to end-user applications. In the latter category was a report by Waseda University (Tokyo) and Kanagawa University (Yokohama, Japan) that described a new robot designed to help senior citizens walk. If a robot bumps into something or is pushed from behind, say researchers at the University of Tokyo and City University of Hong Kong, they'll need a special algorithm to maintain stability. The researchers used video cameras and force plates to capture human responses to sudden disturbances, then extracted the parameters relevant to their solution. If all that "walking" worked up an appetite in Orlando, one of the more realistic humanoids, designed by the University of Tokyo, aims at conquering one of the most ubiquitous tasks facing any human: cooking meals.