Meet Walk-Man, a humanoid robot from the Italian Institute of Technology, and hope that you never have to meet him again. Why? Walk-Man is designed to assist humans in emergency and disaster scenarios, so if you see him, you’re in trouble.
At first, a bipedal robot seems like an odd choice for something that will have to deal with tricky, unpredictable situations, but one of Walk-Man’s creators, Nikos Tsagarakis, makes the case for the humanoid design.
“Our world, our environment, was designed for our body basically,” he told Reuters. “We have doors that are designed to be grasped by humanoid hands, and we have areas or access paths that are appropriate for our body forms. So it means that if you build a robot that has a very similar form, you need to adapt less to the environment.”
The six-foot-tall robot has stereo cameras for eyes, and a rotating 3-D laser scanner to assess the world around it. The team is working on letting the robot walk outside, where uneven ground might trip it up, but it has a clever twist to the usual algorithms that keep a bipedal ‘bot upright.
“Legs are not enough. You have to use also the arms,” says Tsagarakis. This means the robot’s arms can be used for balance, but also for grabbing the things around the robot so it can make its way through even rough terrain.
This, says Tsagarakis, gives an advantage over all other bipedal robots, which balance using only the lower body. This is especially important, he says, if you want to pass through cluttered spaces like those encountered in, say, a collapsed building.
Walk-Man made an appearance at the DARPA Robotics Challenge 2015, and as you can see in these video showing the outing, Walk-Man deals with things like door-handles, and even driving a car, with impressive ease. Who needs a self-driving car when you have a robot chauffeur?