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Iran's Humanoid Robot Surena Walks, Stands on One Leg

IEEE Spectrum obtained videos showing that the Iranian humanoid can indeed walk

2 min read
Surena II, an adult-size humanoid robot developed at the University of Tehran, in Iran
Surena II, an adult-size humanoid developed by University of Tehran roboticists.
Photo: University of Tehran

Iranian researchers at the University of Tehran unveiled last month an adult-size humanoid robot called Surena II.

Initial pressreports by Iran’s official news agencies didn’t include a lot of details about the robot, saying only it could “walk like a human being but at a slower pace,” as well as perform some other tasks, and questions surfaced about the robot’s real capabilities.

Now IEEE Spectrum has obtained more details about Surena and exclusive images and videos showing that the robot can indeed walk—and even stand on one leg.

Aghil Yousefi-Koma, a professor of engineering at the University of Tehran who leads the Surena project, tells me that the goal is to explore “both theoretical and experimental aspects of bipedal locomotion.”

The humanoid relies on gyroscopes and accelerometers to remain stable, and although it still moves its legs slowly, Professor Yousefi-Koma says his team is developing a “feedback control system that provides dynamic balance, yielding a much more human-like motion.”

Surena II, which weighs in at 45 kilograms and is 1.45 meter tall, has a total of 22 degrees of freedom (DoF): The legs have each 6 DoF, the arms 4 DoF, and the head 2 DoF. An operator uses a remote controller to make the robot walk and move its arms and head. The robot can also bow.

Surena doesn’t have the agile arms of Hubo, the powerful legs of Petman, or the charisma of Asimo, but this is only the robot’s second generation, built by a team of 20 engineers and students in less than two years. The first version of the robot, much simpler, with only 8 DoF, was demonstrated in late 2008.

Surena 2 humanoid robot

Professor Yousefi-Koma, who is director of both the Center for Advanced Vehicles (CAV) and the Advanced Dynamic and Control Systems Laboratory (ADCSL) at the University of Tehran, says another goal of the project is to “demonstrate to students and to the public the excitement of a career in engineering.”

For the next generation of the robot, the researchers plan to develop speech and vision capabilities and improve the robot’s overall mobility and dexterity. They also plan to give Surena “a higher level of machine intelligence,” Professor Yousefi-Koma says, “suitable for various industrial, medical, and household applications.”

The robot was unveiled by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 3 July in Tehran as part of the country’s celebration of “Industry and Mine Day.” The robot is a joint project between the Center for Advanced Vehicles and the R&D Society of Iranian Industries and Mines.

Below, a demo the researchers gave on Iranian TV and more photos.

Surena 2 humanoid robot

Surena 2 humanoid robot

Photos and videos: University of Tehran/Center for Advanced Vehicles

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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