AIST (Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) has published a video showing their female android HRP-4C (nicknamed “Miim”) walking more like a person. Previously, HRP-4C walked with its knees bent at all times, which looked very odd given the robot’s otherwise realistic appearance (watch an older demo here). Because the robot was built with the entertainment industry in mind, it should be able to walk more like a person, and even display a specific emotion or attitude in how it walks. In other words, a choreographer shouldn’t be limited to one type of performance when working with the robot.
The team admits that they could not combine a realistic motion with robust balance, focusing instead on a few key areas. The robot’s toes now support the legs longer during each stride, allowing the legs to straighten out more. As you can see in the stills from the experiment (above), the knees are still bending more than they probably ought to in order to maintain balance. As a result the motion still looks stilted, but it’s a marked improvement over the previous walking gait.
Since making headlines around the world with its incredible dancing last year (watch the video here), and the success of “live” concerts starring digital idols (Hatsune Miku), it seems there does exist a market for this kind of entertainment. It’ll be pretty interesting to see where this goes in the next decade.
The technical details are presented in “Human-Like Walking with Toe Supporting for Humanoids,” by Kanako Miura, Mitsuharu Morisawa, Fumio Kanehiro, Shuuji Kajita, Kenji Kaneko, and Kazuhito Yokoi, Proc. 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.