HAPPY WITH HOPPING
Researchers at the SIM Group of TU Darmstadt and the Locomotion
Laboratory of Jena University are working on an ambitious new project they
hope will display heel-to-toe walking like Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN.
They’re planning to build a series of evolving BioBipeds —
musculoskeletal robots that incorporate elasticity to achieve energy-efficient
standing, walking, and running.
They’ve only built the BioBiped1 so far, but it is already displaying some
impressive hopping capabilities. This kind of hopping produces the same sort
of stresses as a light jog, so it is a pretty good indication that the robot will
be jogging on a treadmill in the future.
Each leg has four joints (hip x2, knee x1, ankle x1) actuated by a
combination of both active motors and passive springs which are based on
the muscles and tendons found in a human leg. The springiness of the legs
means the robot can passively rebound when it lands on its feet. Eventually, a
more sophisticated upper body with arms may be added, and various foot
mechanisms will be evaluated. Currently, the robot is restricted to moving
up and down, but future versions will gradually introduce more freedom
until it is able to stand on its own.
CITEC Bielefeld’s anthropomorphic robot head “FloBi” has been
upgraded with a cheap and simple motion-capture setup. You’ll recall
that FloBi is an expressive head with modular parts that allow you to
insert different sections of the head to create a male or female robot.
The mo-cap setup is a helmet with a single camera pointed at your
face. It tracks your eyes, eyelids, brows, and mouth using color markers
while an X-IMU (inertial measurement unit) detects overall head
rotation. The recorded motion can be viewed using a virtual model or
it can be played back on the actual robot. This means rather than
having to animate each segment of the robot’s face by hand (which can
also lead to unnatural expressions), all of the motion can be recorded quickly and easily from a real person.
The result is a robot face that — despite being simple in appearance — is
convincingly lifelike due to its realistic eye movements. The lips aren’t quite
malleable to accurately recreate lip-synching, but given the technical
limitations of the robot head and the simple motion-capture solution
they’ve created, I’d say they have been pretty successful.
Japan's Gundam Mini-Theme Park is finally opening its doors April 19 at
Diver City Tokyo. The giant Mobile Suit RX- 78 will find a permanent home
there, as well as a dome theater for showing videos, photo ops, and displays.
The entire park measures about 2,000 sq meters and includes some Bandai
gift shops and café.
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