On February 13, Researchers at the University of Tehran’s Center for Advanced Systems and Technologies (CAST) have unveiled the fourth version of their humanoid robot Surena. This version has been in the works for four years, and the original version was unveiled over 10 years ago. A new video shows all its astonishing capabilities.
As you see in the video, the robot is able to balance on one foot, grab a bottle of water, write its name, drill through a wall and more. It even grabs a selfie with onlookers.
Dr. Aghil Yousefi-Koma, a professor of mechanical engineering, led the group that worked on this robot. Yousefi-Koma told IEEE Spectrum what he was hoping to do with this project.
“Improving the robot’s interaction with the environment was one of the main goals of the Surena IV project,” he said. Building a robot that has the kind of dexterity Surena now has is no easy feat. Researchers are constantly working on trying to perfect robotic hands that are capable of what the human hand is capable of. It would seem Surena is getting closer to that point.
Surena IV was unveiled at the end of last year, but the video of the unveiling just came out. The robot can't do parkour like Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot, but these more subtle developments are definitely noteworthy. Surena can balance better than before, interact with more objects and is generally getting closer to the point of being able to do most things within the realm of an average person.
Robotics is developing in different ways and in different directions. Boston Dynamics is working on the most flashy robots in terms of what they can do, while robots like Sophia are meant to test how far we can take artificial intelligence and make robots look more like us. Surena is more in the world of Honda's Asimo that was retired a couple of years ago. These robots show how we can develop fine motor skills.
From a design perspective, Surena stands somewhere in between Sophia and Asimo. It clearly lacks the former's human-like design. Like Asimo, there's a clear influence from the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still, where a mysterious robot named Gort terrifies Earth's armies with his indestructible body and sleek, seemless design. Surena offers a hint of a face, and swirling lines that call to mind the jazzy 1980s squiggles known as Memphis design. Most notably, the portal on Surena's forehead has a distinctly alien feel to it, possibly signaling to human bystanders that the robot will never fully replace them.
Yousefi-Koma told IEEE Spectrum that he sees Surena as a “symbol of technology advancement in the direction of peace and humanity." That's good to hear considering people like Elon Musk keep warning us that A.I. is going to become too advanced and destroy humanity. As we see in the video, Surena can take a light push without falling over right now, but we're still pretty sure we would win in a fight.