Japan’s rapidly aging population and slow birth rate are galvanizing research in robotics as a potential countermeasure to the predicted shortages in the work force of tomorrow. The next step towards efficient robot helpers is the HRP-4, the latest humanoid robot developed at AIST (Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology) and Kawada Industries. In stark contrast to the feminine HRP-4C (unveiled last year) the HRP-4 has a decidedly robotic appearance resembling a slim athlete. It stands 150cm (5′) tall and weighs only 39kg (86 lbs) including its battery, which makes it the smallest and lightest of the HRP family.
It has a total of 34 degrees of freedom (neck x2, 2 arms x7 [shoulder x3, elbow x1, wrist x3], 2 hands x2, waist x2, 2 legs x6) and has a grasping force of 0.5kg. The use of standardized parts and an optimized mechanical design has lowered its production cost, which means labs will be able to purchase one for much less than its predecessors. At 26,000,000 JPY ($306,000 USD) each, they’re almost $100k cheaper than Willow Garage’s PR2; they hope to sell between 3 and 5 units per year. Like the HRP-4C, it runs Linux and AIST’s proprietary OpenRTM-aist control software, and its backpack has room for a small laptop computer which can be upgraded whenever necessary.
From left: HRP-2 Promet (2003), HRP-3 Promet mk.II (2007), HRP-4
The robot responds to voice commands, and shows off its face and object recognition (pink balls), in the following demonstration. The robot’s flexibility and stable movement can be seen as it reaches around and touches its own back, and when its legs cross as it plants one foot directly in front of the other. The following video demonstration has been edited for length (no serious cuts were made, but you can watch the unedited version after the break).
Now this is what I’m talking about! I’m really liking the look of this one (the handiwork of designer T. Sonoyama, who had previously designed Kawada Industries’ NEXTAGE and the Telesar2). The two-tone color scheme works well, and thanks to its simple face design it doesn’t have any of the usual creep-factor associated with humanoids. Interestingly, the battery packs are the white sections on its hips. It seems like Japanese universities have been working with the HRP-2 Promet for an eternity; hopefully with the reduced cost this one will get some lab time.
- HRP-4 @ Impress PC Watch (JP)
- HRP-4 @ GetRobo (EN)
- HRP-4 @ Robonable (JP)
- HRP-4 @ Jiji.com (JP)
- HRP-4 @ 47News (JP)
Impress PC Watch / K.Moriyama | ROBOCON Magazine | AIST | Kawada Industries | Robonable