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Walk-Man humanoid robot could be future of dangerous work


Walk-Man is an advanced humanoid robot built to replace humans in emergency situations.

Walk-Man is an advanced humanoid robot built to replace humans in emergency situations. Photo: walk-man.eu

In a world designed to accommodate the shape of the human body, anthropomorphic robots could have advantages over wheeled and animal-shaped robots that could help them integrate into society more easily.

Scientists from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology) and University of Pisa in Italy have developed a humanoid robot that can operate human tools and interact with its environment in the same way a person would. They hope their Walk-Man robot will prove a more effective design for search and rescue scenarios where it’s too dangerous for humans to venture.

Lead researcher Nikos Tsagarakis believes the world won’t need to be adapted to accommodate Walk-Man, meaning it could eventually operate in damaged buildings; turning a heavy valve or lifting collapsed masonry, for example.

Walk-man has hands and feet for manipulating human tools.

Walk-man has hands and feet for manipulating human tools. Photo: walk-man.eu

“There’s one factor that everyone agrees, that actually our world, our environment it was designed for our body basically. So, we have tools that are designed to be grasped by humanoid, human hands. You have also areas or access paths that are actually appropriate for our body forms. So it means that if you build a robot that has a very similar form, you need to adapt less the environment in order to have this robot operational within such a space,” Tsagarakis said.

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To effectively navigate through tricky environments, Walk-Man uses all its limbs to demonstrate whole-body motion dynamics. Using its hands, arms, legs and feet, Walk-Man can maintain a more stable and balanced motion by reaching out to support itself while overcoming obstacles.

Tsagarakis says their aim is to make the Walk-Man robot demonstrate human type locomotion, balance and manipulation capabilities.

“We believe that — as humans also do — that legs are not only enough. You have to use also the arms, you have to be able to grasp the environment and actually assist your locomotion by creating additional contacts with the environmental balance,” he said.

“This will make a big difference in humanoids where currently the technology is limited to the solutions that provide the balance basically only using the lower body. Upper body is also important; especially if you want to pass through cluttered spaces and structural grounds and so on.”