When robots are mentioned what often comes to mind are cinema’s cyborgs such as Robocop, Terminator and Millennium Man, to name a few. Perhaps also Star Wars’ C3PO, which is a pure robot, meaning it includes no human component, but is still a sentient and responsive machine, at least as it appears on film. But then we know they are all fictional and unreal.
Yet man’s fascination with creating something in his image and likeness does not end in films: there are actual robots designed to do various things. Some of the top robots circa 2010 are sketched below.
Asimo. The most famous. Made by Honda Motor Company, Asimo can walk unassisted, climb stairs, serve up drinks or food in a tray, switch lights on and off, open doors, understand and follow commands, recognize faces and individual voices. Looks like a diminutive astronaut with exposed joints.
Ecci. Perhaps the most realistic robot made, having ‘bones’, ‘muscles’ and ‘tendons’, and a brain that can correct its own errors and blunders. Its vision is similar to humans, although it has only one eye like a Cyclops. The robot appears to be C3PO without skin and coverings. Developed at the University of Zurich (Switzerland), its name is short for ‘Eccerobot’. The term ‘ecce’ means ‘look’ or ‘behold’ as in ‘Ecce homo’ (Behold the man).
QRIO. While Asimo can only walk, QRIO can run at 23 centimeters per second which, though slow by human standards, nevertheless requires a considerable amount of mechanical coordination to balance the body while running. The robot can recognize voices and faces, and can databank personal likes and dislikes of people. Made by Sony Corporation.
EMIEW. (Excellent Mobility and Interactive Existence as Work-mate). As a robot on wheels, it moves the quickest as 3.7mph (6kph), can also recognize voices and sounds, as well as obstructions enough to get around them. It can move its arm very similar to a human. Designed by Hitachi Corporation to be office assistant.
HRP-4C. This time a ‘female’ robot that wowed the audience in Tokyo Digital Content Expo by singing and dancing to the song. Developed at Japan National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology to be a diva (Imagine that!).
While these are the top humanoid robots, others worth mentioning are:
Partner Robot. Made by Toyota, this robot can play drums, trumpets, and in 2007, a version that plays the violin.
Justin. A wheeled robot capable of making coffee and probably repairing satellites in space. It has arms and fingers for more delicate tasks. Made by the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft-und-Raumfahrt.
PaPeRo. This R2D2-like robot can comprehend 650 phrases and vocalize 3,000 or more. It can self-adjust its vision to some extent to recognize faces, or tell the person illumination is not enough. NEC Corporation is the manufacturer.
Robosapien. Actually this is preprogrammed toy controllable electronically via an infrared remote, PDA with infrared transmitter or infrared control-equipped personal computer. Marketed by WowWee Toys.
Big Dog. Developed by Boston Dynamics, it is a quadruped all-terrain workdog able to carry loads up slopes, through shallow waters, over rockpiles, etc. Although its foreseeable function is for military purposes, it can be modified to become a robotic pony for children, a ‘wheelchair’ without wheels, and as a mechanical mule. BigDog was unveiled to the public in 2006.
Graham works around impressive automated feeding and handling machines everyday at RNA automation.