Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has detailed the software used to make their robot dance (see some nice photos over at Pink Tentacle) in a recent press release. The software, dubbed Choreonoid (Choreography and Humanoid), is similar to conventional computer animation software. Users create key poses and the software automatically interpolates the motion between them. What makes the software unique is that it also corrects the poses if they are mechanically unstable, such as modifying the position of the feet and waist, allowing anyone to create motions compatible with the ZMP balancing method. This is especially important for robots like the HRP-4C, where complicated motions could easily cause it to fall over.
Although many humanoid robots are being developed, they are too complicated for the average person to program or create reliable motion routines. Software like Choreonoid helps to bridge the gap, and would allow just about anyone to create stable motions. This could allow robots, particularly entertainment robots like the HRP-4C, to enter mainstream channels like television or games. One can imagine how much easier it would be to make a robot puppet show, for example, using software like this. It could also lead to content creation for the masses in future hobby robot kits.
(left) animated walk cycle (right) corrected poses
Similar software was developed for the SONY QRIO with the help of Marc Raibert (Boston Dynamics), as detailed in “Motion Creating System for a Small Biped Entertainment Robot” (Proceedings of the 2003 IEEE/RSJ, Intl. Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems). This software allowed engineers at SONY to quickly create stable dance routines for the QRIO by automatically correcting the robot’s posture at key frames. Sadly we’ll never know, but it seems likely this software suite would have been included with the QRIO, so as to allow owners to create their own motion routines.