This Japanese Robot ‘Puts His Back Into’ Lifting And Moving Heavy Objects

Japanese engineers and researchers have created a robot that is able to deduce the best possible way to lift or move a heavy object. Quite often the robot will “put his back into” the work and move the object.

Industrial robots have been gaining speed, agility and balance. However, those robots which were mobile seldom had strength as one of their defining characteristics. Moreover, while strength is important, what’s more important is how well that strength is used and how the robot’s decides to direct that strength.

When humans need to move a heavy object, we either call someone to help or try and drag the object across the floor. Researchers from the University of Tokyo’s JSK Laboratory are now teaching robots to do the latter. The latest human-like robot, unimaginatively called HRP-2 is able to build on the human logic and decides how best to relocate the object.

The robot is able to decide if the object needs pushing, pulling, or scooting to be moved correctly. What’s more important and thoroughly impressive is the fact that the robot is agile and smart enough to try various human-like postures and crouches in an attempt to brace itself, which is akin to a human protecting himself when lifting a heavy object so as to prevent an injury.

Researchers Masayuki Inaba and Kei Okada have built in multiple decision algorithms that allow HRP-2 to approach each large object with a set of motions like pushing with it shoulders, forearms, or with its back against the object. Mimicking all the typical movements of an able-bodied human, the robot intelligently cycles through the postures, until it finds the most ideal or suitable one to move the object.

The video shows the various attempts of the robot, which include lower force strategies – pushing or pulling with its hands – as well as higher strength methods like leaning in with a single shoulder or its back. The robot decides by analyzing the object’s weight, dimensions and friction against the ground surface.

Interestingly, the robot’s first choice always seems to be to apply lower force strategies. The Japanese researchers who created the robot assure that it is quite stable and is able to maintain a perfect balance. Moreover, being a biped, it is programmed to adjust its footsteps to be shorter or longer based on how far it is able to move the object.

The robot is intended as an assistant to humans. Hopefully it won’t plop itself on a sofa with a beer in hand after it has just moved a heavy load.

[Image Credit | YouTube Screen Grab]