Pisa, Italy – A group of roboticists from the Italian Institute of Technology and University of Pisa have built a robot suited for replacing humans in hazardous environments.

It was designed to fulfill all kind of dangerous tasks and to maneuver around hostile terrain. Walk-Man is a humanoid robot that can operate tools like a person could and also interact with its environment just like a human being.

Although the developers want to build an independent robot, the Walk-Man has to be remotely-controlled for the moment. Photo: Italian Institute of Technology.

The developers hope their Walk-Man robot will operate substituting people in scenarios where it’s too dangerous for humans to venture. This new robot has a few advantages compared to previous robotic projects.

The group of roboticists, lead by Nikos Tsagarakis, reached to the conclusion that everything in our world was designed for humans. So, our tools, our paths are being designed to be used and access by humans only. Their general idea is that if a robot with very similar human form is built the environment will need to be adapted less. This robot would be able to fit in humans’ paths and operate humans’ tools.

Walk-Man stands more than six feet tall (1.85 meters). Its arms extent two meters, and it weighs 118 kilograms. Its head module is equipped with a rotating three-dimension laser scanner and a stereo vision mechanism. Also, its head is fitted with a motor, capable of letting it move it in many directions.

The project is being promptly developed but it is not ready yet. At the moment, the inventors are working in some algorithms that would give the robot the cognitive ability to support itself while walking over rough terrain. Meanwhile, a human operator is needed to remotely take control of it.

“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. And this will make a big difference in humanoids” Tsagarakis said.

The first prototype of the Walk-Man robot took part in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals in June this year. In this challenge, teams from around the world showcased robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters.

Source: Reuters