Japanese Researchers Devise Avatar Telepresence Robot
IEEE Spectrum has published an interesting story last Tuesday, which centered on a miniature robot designed to double up as your friend.
Researchers from Yamagata University in Japan have devised a way for people never to be alone again – creating a portable telepresence robot that individuals can carry with them anywhere, through a backpack-like contraption. The MH-2 Shoulder Robot is designed specifically to generate human-like actions, like waving goodbye, pointing at things, and other coordinated head-to-hand gestures. This Miniature Humanoid 2 comes with several key body parts that aid in producing accurate and realistic human movements: a 3-DOF head, two 7-DOF arms, 2-DOF body and another DOF to make the robot appear like it is actually breathing. DOF in Robotics stands for Degrees-Of-Freedom.
Avatar for your Friend
What this miniature humanoid comes down to in the end is that it acts as some sort of avatar for any friend you have in real life – whether it’s your travel buddy, favorite brother or your best friend. When you take this robot with you and wear it on your shoulder, it will seem as if your friend or relative– reduced to the size of a toy robot, of course – is traveling with you, seeing everything that the humanoid is able to take in. Your friend is able to do this by immersing himself in a motion capture environment and viewing a 360-degree 3D display back home. As your friend reacts to the experience, the telepresence robot mimics these reactions and gestures so that you can interact with your friend straightforwardly, as if they’re actually there with you.
The only drawback to this humanoid device is its bulk, with up to 22 actuators needed for the robot to function convincingly. Wearing the MH-2 is like wearing a huge backpack, which hides the servos necessary for the robot to produce realistic movement. Improvements at making the miniature humanoid more portable, however, are already underway.
This project by Yamagata University researchers, Yuichi Tsumaki, Taisuke Tsukuda and Fumiaki Ono, was recently presented at the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.