People have been asking us for a long time when we would make RoboThespian walk. From a cold, rational point of view, there seem to be very few commercial reasons to develop a full sized bipedal robot.
Assisted living and care are often put forward as applications for walking robots. In reality, there are major technical barriers to overcome, particularly regarding safe operation around humans. Of course, there are some application areas where causing serious injury or death are not a concern. We could create a 'Terminator' biped. Personally, I oppose the mechanisation of death for ethical reasons. I want to build machines that make people laugh, not cry.
But the question doesn't go away: 'Can it walk? Can it walk?'
Who wants to see a walking robot? - I realised that most people would love to see it. And they can, in perfect safety - at a show or public event. But just walking is not enough. It must run, jump hop and leap. To be worth its cost, this robot must perform like something never seen before. If it can do just 10% of John Travolta's walk, Margot Fonteyn's dance and Julia Roberts' smile, we have a winner.
Achieving these goals is a daunting task. It requires not just engineering expertise, but radical and novel approaches to the problems of dynamic balance, actuation efficiency, and locomotion. We are creating not just an exciting piece of hardware, but one that will make a great development platform for others to build on. When Byrun takes his next step, so shall we.
- Will Jackson, Engineered Arts
Supported by: and with thanks to