bots IN BRIEF
BABY STEPS FOR PROGRESS
Osaka University’s Hosoda Lab presented Pneuborn-7II and Pneuborn- 13 — two
musculoskeletal infant robots — at ICRA 2011. Their names play on the pneumatic muscles
used as actuators throughout their bodies which can contract approximately 25% when
compressed air is supplied. This type of actuator uses soft flexible materials, allowing the robots
to interact with their environment — sometimes for several hours at a time — without risking
mechanical damage or overheating.
Measuring the size of a seven month old infant, Pneuborn-7II was built to study the
relationship between motor development and embodiment. It is 80 cm ( 31”) tall, weighs 5. 4 kg
( 11. 9 lbs), and has 26 degrees of freedom actuated by 19 pneumatic muscles. Notably, the
robot’s spine has three pitch and yaw joints that allow it to rotate, flex, and extend. It is fully
autonomous and contains a microcontroller, battery, air valves, and an air source (compressed
C02 cartridge bottle). During long experiments, air can be provided through an external
The researchers implemented a learning algorithm based on central pattern generators
with an optimization method which was able to generate successful crawling forward motions.
They were able to accomplish this despite the robot’s lack of sensors or sophisticated artificial intelligence. Central pattern
generators (or CPGs for short) are a type of neural network that are often used in robotics to create rhythmic motions that
are especially useful for simple locomotion such as crawling or rolling over.
Pneuborn- 13 models a 13 month old infant, and was developed to
study the effect the musculoskeletal structure itself has on the
emergence of bipedal walking. As a result, its 18 pneumatic muscles are
concentrated in its ankle, knee, and hip joints. It measures 75 cm ( 29. 5”)
tall, weighs 3. 9 kg ( 8. 5 lbs), and has 21 degrees of freedom. Like
Pneuborn-7II, it is wholly autonomous and has a similar skeletal
structure, but it doesn’t have an actuated spinal column. The robot is
able to hold a standing posture and can make stepping motions.
24 SERVO 07.2011
A BIRDBRAIN IDEA
Carnegie Mellon University developed a robot to keep tech-savvy students constantly interested and came up with Finch — a
white, plastic two-wheeled bot that resembles a bird.At a price of
only $99 (with discounts for ordering in quantity), young scientists
can program it to speak, dance, and even draw pictures. Finch has a
three-axis accelerometer, temperature, bump, and light sensors, LED
lights, and speakers.
The eventual goal is to allow every student to adopt one and
take it home for assignments. The company BirdBrain Technologies
produces and sells Finch, and has developed lesson plans for
teachers as well as giving them the option of uploading their own
ideas. Classroom testing has been tried in high school, university,
and after-school programs.