The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Iuro Robot Finds Its Way Through Cities, With Your Help

This giant bobblehead robot asks people for directions to get where it needs to go

2 min read
Iuro Robot Finds Its Way Through Cities, With Your Help

One of the most, uh, striking robots at the IROS expo this year was Iuro, with its giant and highly expressive blue and white plastic head. Iuro can approach humans and ask them for directions to help it navigate around cities while acting in a “socially acceptable manner,” but at IROS, the robot was randomly (and hilariously) shifting back and forth between expressions of happiness, disgust, and astonishment, as you’ll see in our video interview after the jump.

Iuro, or Interactive Urban Robot, is manufactured by Accrea Engineering and is being used for research through a partnership between Technische Universität München, ETH Zürich, and the University of Salzburg. The platform is beefy and designed to be able to cope with typical urban obstacles like stairs and curbs, thanks to big shock-absorbing wheels and a suite of laser sensors on the base.

The base, however capable it may be, is certainly not the most interesting bit of Iuro. The robot has a huge plastic head with 21 actuators packed inside, giving it fully controllable eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, lips, ears, and mouth. Stereo cameras above the eyes and a Kinect sensor in the chest help Iuro to interact with humans it runs into on the street, interpreting speech and gestures to enable it to find its way from place to place without using maps or GPS.

The overall goal with Iuro is to teach robots to navigate using symbolic location identification, like "go down that street over there and take a left when you see the bus stop." Even humans have trouble with this sort of thing in unknown environments, and for robots, understanding those kinds of instructions requires the ability to recognize and interpret gestures, translating the vague wave of a hand that might accompany a phrase like "over there" into a direction. This research will eventually enable autonomous robots to figure out what they don't know and then ask the nearest human for help, without needing that human to provide information in the form of if/then statements.

[ Iuro Project ]

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
Horizontal
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
DarkGray

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?

Keep Reading ↓Show less