Iran Has a Tiny Joyful Robot that Can Dance and Do Karate

Humanoid robots can go one of two ways — adorable, or terrifying. Fortunately, Surena Mini, the latest project out of the University of Tehran, Iran’s robotics lab is a far cry from large, coordinated, imposing humanoids like Russia’s gun-wielding Terminator FEDOR. Instead, it’s a cute little bot that dances, does karate, and may help children with autism spectrum disorders or hearing loss in the classroom.

The $8,000 robot was first announced by University of Tehran’s Center of Advanced Systems and Technologies on April 24th at the 5th Laboratory Equipment & Chemicals Exhibition, which showcases some highlights of Iranian innovation, and Professor Yousefi-Koma introduced the bot to the world in a recent interview with IEEE Spectrum.

The robot was designed to be far more accessible than other humanoid robots used for research, so while code-savvy users can program the robot to do specific things, the interface will be more image-based so people don’t need to know any programming languages to work with Surena Mini. The robot is “designed to be attractive and user-friendly,” project lead Yousefi-Koma told IEEE Spectrum in a recent interview.

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Center of Advanced Systems and Technologies

While the little robot contains advanced processors and sensors, the researchers who designed it say that it’s difficult to deliver the same capabilities that they’ve built into their larger robots. As such, Surena Mini isn’t as good as balancing or recognizing faces as its human-sized predecessors, and its hands are little more than plastic blocks that can push items but can’t grasp them. Still, Yousefi-Koma said users are given full control of the robot’s motor functions so they can control how they interact with it. Children with autism or other learning disabilities can often benefit from interacting with objects that they can control and communicate through as a proxy, which appears to be a potential use for Surena Mini.

Check out how it works the crowd after showing off its badass karate chop.

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