The robot revolution is indeed on its way: Soon we’ll have robovacuums, robot chefs, and now, robots teaching our kids about robots. But it’s not a one-way evolution, as humans are becoming little more futuristic too, with the help of a robo-knee.
Japan’s Bot for School Kids
The robot pictured above is yet another humanoid robot (that’ll be an android, then) joining the ranks currently led by Honda’s amazing Asimo. This unnamed machine is based on a design by ZMP and is pretty capable–even has a video-projection system built in. There’s a lithium battery to give it some autonomy, and all the gyros and accelerometers to give it a sense of balance as its 21 joints let it amble across the floor. It can speak and hear, and it’s WiFi enabled for remote control.
As you can see from the video below, this new robot just isn’t quite in the same class as Asimo. Its locomotion is stilted, and it basically hops from foot to foot while walking–Asimo’s gait, in comparison, is so very human that it can stroll, jog and even run pretty much exactly as we do. Asimo’s sensor array is also smarter, and it has manipulator hands for doing physical tasks.
But though the orange guy here, from Nippon Institute of Technology, Harada and Znug, isn’t quite as smart, he does have one big advantage over Asimo: You can buy him, if you have a spare $77,000 lying around. The intention is that he’ll be used to teach kids about robotics, which is why the price tag is Institutional-scale. It’s a good indicator of the way things are going, though. Soon the price of an android will be cheap enough that we can all afford a plastic pal who’s fun to be with.
Tsukuba University’s Robot Knee Booster
No, seriously. It’s a strap on device that boosts your knee joint movements with a little push from a small, but powerful built-in motor. It’s packed with sensors and a safety bar–so it doesn’t rip your knee off–and it’s supplied with energy by a backpack-mounted battery.
And its entire purpose is to make your knee more efficient when you’re walking and jogging. Doesn’t that obviate the purpose of going for a jog in the first place? That kinda positions the roboknee as a gizmo in the same class as the life-assistance machines in Wall-E that resulted in the human race devolving into helpless blobs. For sure, it could be fabulous for people recovering from knee injuries (assuming it’s not the kind of injury that benefits from working the knee joint) but it’s still an oddball idea.