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Watch JPL's RoboSimian Do Pull-Ups

JPL and other teams are working hard on their DARPA challenge robots

1 min read
Watch JPL's RoboSimian Do Pull-Ups

YES! IT'S STARTING! The DARPA Robotics Challenge is mere months (four months) away, and we're now beginning to get some early looks at progress on those spectacular Track A robots. This is RoboSimian, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, starting to experiment with hands developed at Stanford.

RoboSimian isn't finished yet, but that's part of what's exciting here. We've been looking forward to seeing videos of the Track A teams developing and testing their hardware prior to the Challenge in December. JPL is particularly interesting because they've decided not to build a humanoid, like most of the rest of the Track A teams. Instead, RoboSimian is more of, well, a simian, a term used most often to refer to apes, although technically we humans are simians too.

In particular, RoboSimian will use its four general purpose limbs and hands, capable of both mobility and manipulation, to achieve passively stable stances; create multi-point anchored connections to supports such as ladders, railings, and stair treads; and brace itself during forceful manipulation operations.

It looks like RoboSimian is going to have no trouble with ladder climbing or manipulation, and if it ends up walking around on four legs instead of two, that could significantly simplify some of the walking challenges. So the question is, what disadvantages does a form like this have over a more traditional humanoid robot, if any? We may have to wait until the end of the year to find out, but in the mean time, we're very much looking forward to more videos like these from all of the DRC teams.

[ JPL ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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