The “Roboy” robot moves like a human

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Roboy's torso
Roboy’s body is designed to imitate the muscles and bones in our own build, so that he can move similarly to us!

One of the most classic dancing moves ever – and probably my favorite –  is “the robot.” You know, the one where people make very precise movements and look all mechanical?  Well, if robots like the University of Zurich’s “Roboy” go to fun parties, my favorite dance move might become extinct, because he’s designed to move like a human!

Unlike traditional robots that are stiff in order to be controlled more precisely, Roboy has electronic sensors, stretchy muscles, and plastic tendons – tissue that connects muscles to bones -which allow him to move similarly to you and me. In fact, his robot parts were modeled after our musculoskeletal system – the combination of muscles and bones that give us the ability to move – which makes Roboy more graceful and human-like.

What’s the point of having a robot waddling about like one of us, anyway? Well, the researchers say that a naturally-moving bot could take on more human tasks that require speed, precision, and agility; tendon-based ones, like Roboy, are the best way to get there. “If you’re interested in just getting a job done – in a particular movement or something – then we have traditional methods that are based on motors or joints,” says Rolf Pfeifer, who runs the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich. “If you’re interested in more natural kinds of movements, tendon-driven technology needs to be explored.”

However, just like our tendons can be stretched out and worn down by the time we get old, Roboy’s plastic parts could possibly suffer the same fate. “The calibration of tendons is a challenge for [artificial intelligence] research,” explains Sisir Karumanchi, a researcher in MIT’s Robotic Mobility Group.

Right now, Roboy is about 4 feet tall and can’t walk, but Pfeifer and his team are working on a way to make him stronger, faster, and lighter. Before we know it, robots are going to do “the human” in parties better than we can!

Images and video courtesy of Roboy.