Robot Design Enables It To Run
One of the newest robots to be developed by engineers at Sony Corp. in Japan is QRIO – a walking, talking, dancing, singing, running machine – produced specifically for at-home purposes rather than the industrial market.
To date, the control systems that have been developed to make robots walk haven’t been capable of making robots run. In order to build a robot capable of running, Sony engineers developed new control systems using knowledge gained during the creation of their Walkman, Handycam and AIBO products.
QRIO gets its ability to move around independently and adampt to walking surfaces because of Sony’s new Intelligent Servo Actuator (ISA). This drive system for the robot’s joints and limbs includes motors, gears, a computer, numerous sensors and a proprietary technology that governs it all.
The robot has four pressure sensors in the sole of each foot to gather data on the amount of force being received from the walking surface. The information enables QRIO to automatically adjust to differences in elevation up to 1 cm, and slopes up to 10 degrees.
If pushed, QRIO takes a step in the direction it was pushed to keep from falling over. It can detect an outside force acting on it from front, back, right or left, and if it senses that responding to this outside force would be difficult, it immediately ceases all body motion. If QRIO is pushed hard enough to knock it over, it instinctively sticks out its arms, swivels its hips and assumes an impact position. Simultaneously, the control system commands the servos in the joint actuators to relax slightly to lessen the shock of the fall. QRIO then checks its position, turns itself face up if necessary, and stands up by itself.
Not only is QRIO steady on its feet, but it is rather intelligent as well. It’s equipped with a camera and the ability to analyze images it sees. It detects faces, identifies who they are if they are already in its database, knows their voices, and responds to specific people individually as it “learns” more about them. In the future, QRIO might be capable of providing personalized services to its human owners.
QRIO already knows tens of thousands of words, but also learns new ones during normal conversations. Its head contains seven microphones that, along with its voice recognition technology, help it identify a person’s voice, and the direction from which he/she is speaking.
The robot also has its own “emotions” and expresses them in a variety of ways, such as through its movements, actions, sounds or colors. Therefore, since it has a mind of its own it might not do everything you ask it to do!
For information: Sony Corp., 6-7-35 Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141-0001, Japan; phone: +81-3-5448-2111; www.sony.net
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Daniel Burrus, one of the world's leading technology forecasters, business strategists, and author of six books
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