Watch robot legs perfectly mimic a human's movements in real time

This could be useful for disaster response.

Engineers have developed a robot teleoperation system that allows robot legs to perfectly mimic a human’s movements. We haven’t yet reached a point where robots can move as intuitively as humans, or master certain complex movements, so a system that could remotely mimic a human would be useful.

These engineers previously worked on an upper-body teleoperation system, and they believe a fully-formed teleoperation robot could be used for things like disaster response. Imagine hooking yourself up to this kind of system and remotely operating a robot as it runs into a burning building or a nuclear disaster.

Joao Ramos, one of the engineers who worked on the project, tells Inverse this project is years in the making.

“The teleoperation system has been under development since 2014 and was first utilized to control the HERMES humanoid robot,” Ramos says. “The system went through several iterations to get to this point. We needed to develop a human-machine interface that was able to capture human motion at high speeds. The humanoid robot utilizes several principles learned with the MIT Cheetah, also developed in the Biomimetic Robotics Lab. We developed special motors that are able to generate large forces, and are also robust to support impacts during locomotion.”

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Ramos says humans are great at learning “new motor tasks,” so this kind of system would allow them to transfer what they’ve learned to a robot. That said, he believes teleoperation is a “shorter-term solution” compared to giving autonomous robots “human-level motor performance.”

This kind of system is great for something like disaster response because it allows a trained human’s skills to be placed in a scenario that would otherwise be unsafe.

“The idea is to transport the knowledge and expertise of the operator to a remote location while protecting the safety of the operator,” Ramos says.

Ramos says next they want to use what they’ve created to have a robot perform “physically demanding tasks that involve whole-body coordination,” like moving a large object or opening a heavy door. He feels these are things a robot would actually encounter in a disaster scenario.

“To achieve that we are working on improving the human-machine interface to be more immersive and also developing a more sturdy humanoid robot,” Ramos says.

Media via Credit: Ramos and Kim, Sci. Robot. 4, eaav4282 (2019), Ramos and Kim, Sci. Robot. 4, eaav4282 (2019)