Dec 21, 2017 | By Tess

Researchers from the University of Tokyo have built what could very well be the most human-like robots ever created. The humanoid bots, named Kenshiro and Kengoro, were developed with the help of 3D printing technologies and can perform such human activities as sit-ups, pushups, and stretches.

The research team, led by Yuki Asano, has been working on the humanoid robots since 2011 and has made some incredible strides forwards in recent years. Kengoro, the newer of the two bots, has demonstrated some incredibly realistic movements which mimic the human body closely.

These lifelike actions are the result of a complex structure and electronic system that is based on the human skeleton and muscular systems rather than on engineering principles. As the researchers explain, they have used technologies such as 3D printing to adapt the human musculoskeletal system in a range of aluminum, steel, and plastic materials.

The impressive robots are equipped with such features as an articulated spine (which allows them to curve their upper bodies), a rib cage, imitation tendons and joints, and a sensory nervous system which monitors and maintains the robot’s balance. In addition, the researchers have integrated a brain-like processing module into the robots, which actually enables them to move and act without direct instructions.

Kengoro, which has been in development since 2015, even has the ability to sweat, as it releases water through porous 3D printed metal to cool its motors. As Asano explained: “A sponge-like metal material, created using a 3D printer, is used in part of the skeletal structure. We have designed a cooling system that makes water seep through the material and evaporate.”

This means that when the human-sized robot (Kengoro stands at 167 cm and weighs 56.5 kg) exerts itself—say, by doing pushups—its motors are kept from overheating through a sweat-inspired cooling system.

The robots’ muscles, which enable them to move like a human does, are made from a combination of electrical motors, wires, and sensors. Using these technologies and more rudimentary systems such as ball and joint connectors, the researchers have even been able to equip the humanoids with articulated hands and flexible feet.

Don’t worry though, these humanlike 3D printed robots aren’t be developed for any nefarious purposes, and it is unlikely that they will rise up against their human overlords. Rather, these bots are being developed for a range of research purposes.

For one, the University of Tokyo team believes that its complex humanoid robots will enable researchers to better understand how the human body performs and moves during sports, which could in turn allow for the creation of more advanced artificial limbs. Other potential applications for the robot technology include developing more advanced crash-test dummies, and providing a human-like scaffold for growing human tissue grafts.

Asano explains: “For at least the last two millennia, human beings have endeavored to understand the systems and mechanisms that make up the human body. However, a limitation of conventional humanoids is that they have been designed on the basis of the theories of conventional engineering, mechanics, electronics, and informatics.”

“By contrast, our intent is to design a humanoid based on human systems, including the musculoskeletal structure, sensory nervous system, and methods of information processing in the brain,” he adds. “Our research team has successfully developed musculoskeletal robots. They imitate the human musculoskeletal structure, support the flexible body and behaviours of humans, and support human-style muscle actuation using tendon-driven actuators.”

A study about the innovative humanoid research was recently published in the journal Science Robotics.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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T. May wrote at 12/21/2017 6:57:20 PM:

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