Humanoid movement so realistic it can play badminton
Robots which can play badminton, tackle chin-ups and even perform spine-curling crunches have been developed by Japanese scientists who mimicked human joints and bone structure for the first time, to create ultra-realistic motion.
Most human-like robots are designed using basic engineering principles, which has left them with rigid, bulky bodies and clumsy movements. But the team from the University of Tokyo built their humanoids - called Kengoro and Kenshire - based on how the human body works, recreating the entire musculoskeletal system in aluminium, steel and plastic, and installing synthetic joints.
The robots have rib cages and articulated spines, as well as a sensory nervous system which is constantly monitoring balance and stability. They have also been given brain-like information processing capabilities so they can act without being told what to do.
The developers say their humanoids can help researchers understand how humans move during sport, aid in the development of artificial limbs, advance the design of crash-test dummies and even provide a realistic scaffold for the growth of human tissue grafts.
"For at least the last two millennia, human beings have endeavoured to understand the systems and mechanisms that make up the human body," said lead researcher Yuki Asano.
"However, a limitation of conventional humanoids is that they have been designed on the basis of the theories of conventional engineering, mechanics, electronics, and informatics.
"By contrast, our intent is to design a humanoid based on human systems, including the musculoskeletal structure, sensory nervous system, and methods of information processing in the brain."