Creating a robot that moves fluidly and one that responds to gestures, or the pressure of a handshake, has so far been only within the reach of CGI designers of Sci-Fi films. Enabling a hand-built robot to mimic the human body authentically has proved to be an enormous challenge.
However, the world’s first anthropomimetic robot has recently been unveiled – the ‘Embodied Cognition in a Compliantly Engineered Robot’ or ‘ECCEROBOT’ for ease. ECCEROBOT is entirely hand made and consists of bones, muscles and tendons that move like ours. The difference being that the bones are made of thermoplastic polymorph, the tendons are kiteline and the muscles are made of bungee cords activated by screwdriver motors.
The term 'anthropomimetic' comes from the ancient Greek 'anthropos' (human being) and "mimesis" (to immitate).
EcceRobot is a 3 year project funded by the 7th Framework programme of the EU with three specific goals:
- To build the first truly anthropomimetic robot
- To discover how to control it
- Investigate it’s human-like cognitive features
Understanding how humans move is a combination of learning how our bodies work, how our brains communicate with our bodies and how we interpret our environment. EcceRobot’s ability to move in a more human way is a direct result of the research into these areas.
The design team have been inspired by Gray’s Anatomy (the book), Yoga manuals,
bodybuilding books and dissection DVDs. Classical ‘factory’ robots are unable to move in the same flexible way that EcceRobot can and are usually designed to perform specific functions rather than a variety of ever changing patterns of movement. This is a robot that will react to the pressure of your handshake rather than crush your fingers. It reacts to pressure in a similar way to humans and can even give you a hug.
These design innovations are not only safer for interaction with people but they will eventually allow robots to conduct the same sort of fine motor skills that humans are particularly good at.
Perhaps this will open the door in the future for robots to become commonplace in both our homes and workplaces.