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AIST's HRP4: Sci-Fi-Like Household Helper Robots Have Arrived

Robot HRP4

You've seen plenty of robots and androids in the news, but you've probably never seen anything as astonishing as HRP4, which promises to be cheap, powerful, and the most sci-fi-like bot built to date.

AIST and Kawada Industries just revealed the new humanoid machine, and by making it look "athletic" they've also turned HRP4 into a real-world version of the fictional life-assisting robots you've seen in countless sci-fi movies (the older generation of 'droids in Will Smith's I, Robot movie for one). He's five feet tall and weighs just 86 pounds, including battery. Bipedal android robotics seems to have evolved swiftly enough that new machines don't need props like Asimo's chunky battery backpack.

Nevertheless, HRP4 has 34 degrees of freedom in movement, including full arm articulation and simple hand moves, which give it a grasping force of 1.1 pounds. It uses standardized parts, runs a Linux core beneath AIST's proprietary control software on an Intel Pentium M CPU and was designed to be low-cost. Still, the robot can recognize and react to voice commands, and has simple object and face recognition built-in.

Check out HRP4 in the video below—it's eight minutes, but worth it.

Did you spot the potential here? We've shown you all sorts of robots recently, from butlerbots to virtual-presence telecommuting devices, but they're all pretty simple and decidedly a-human. HRP4 may not be jam-packed with sensors, ultra-sensitive force-sensitive skin or gigaflops of artificially intelligent brain power ... but he looks humanoid, walks like we do, and seems to be decidedly simple in terms of construction. He is, quite definitely, a sign of the guest-greeting, vacuum-pushing, room-tidying, mail-delivering household robot revolution about to come.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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