Walk-Man: A Robot That Could Replace Humans In Emergency Situations

Posted: Nov 28 2015, 12:07am CST | by , Updated: Nov 28 2015, 12:46pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Walk-Man: A Robot that Could Replace Humans in Emergency Situations
Credit: Walk-Man EU

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The humanoid robot can be used in those situations which are too dangerous for humans to venture out.

Scientists from the Italian Institute of Technology have created a humanoid robot that not only walks and moves like humans but can operate various tools like them too.

The new Walk-Man robot holds promises to be used in dangerous situations where it may be too risky for humans to get in and handle them properly like disasters management, search and rescue scenarios. So in the future, they may replace humans in bomb disposal squads, firefighting and even in the military as well.

Walk-Man is a robot that stands six feet tall and weighs about 260 pounds. It has a stereo vision system and a rotating 3D laser scanner incorporated into its head. Both of these devices help the robot better understand the environment. Walk-Man’s human-like design gives it advantages over wheeled or four-legged robots and it seems more suitable to be utilized in the world that is made for humans.

“There is one factor that everyone agrees, that actually our world, our environment it was designed for our body basically,” said Nikos Tsagarakis, IIT senior researcher and Walk-Man project coordinator.

“So, we have tools designed to be grasped by humanoid, human hands. You also have areas or access paths that are actually 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 the environment in order to have this robot operational within such a space.”

The Italian Institute of Technology and University of Pisa are working on the robot since 2013 and the first prototype also participated in the DARPA Robotics Challenge earlier this year.

Just like a human, the robot can used its arms, hands, legs and feet to balance out itself and to overcome obstacles. Scientists are aiming to make it more stable so it can maneuver through rough terrains.

“We believe that – as humans also do – that legs are not only enough. You have to use also the arms, you have to be able to grasp the environment and actually assist your locomotion by creating additional contacts with the environmental balance.” Tsagarakis said.

“This will make a big difference in humanoids where currently the technology is limited to the solutions that provide the balance basically only using the lower body. Upper body is also important especially if you want to pass through cluttered spaces and structural grounds and so on.

Scientists are trying to equip it with enough perception and cognitive ability so it can work independently. But if the task is too hard, it can be operated by humans remotely.

“The idea with this robot is that will always be some pilots at the back, that will be remotely placed and actually guide the robot in any case that a decision needs to be made,” explains Tsagarakis.

“The robot will transfer data, like perception data, back to the operator, and the operator will take the actions and decide what the next movement for the robot is.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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