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The USA’s Magnificent 7 Full-Size Humanoids

We first reported it in December 2010 when the deal was first announced, but it bears repeating as it will soon pave the way for major breakthroughs in humanoid robots in the United States.

Thanks to part of a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation, American universities have purchased six HUBO 2 Plus robots from South Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).  Drexel University’s Autonomous Systems Lab, led by Dr. Paul Oh (related to HUBO’s creator Dr. Jun Ho Oh) was instrumental in sealing the deal.  They’ve had one of the robots, nicknamed Jaemi HUBO, since 2009.  As you can see in this cute clip, Jaemi HUBO and her six siblings are eager to make friends in their new home.

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“Humanoids provide an exciting and practical context to both motivate and train American students,” Oh said. “One can argue that humanoids are the epitome of what one perceives to be a robot. As such, they are an attractive area for engineering students to work on. Students quickly learn that Asia is the world-leader in humanoid design. Thus to become humanoid designers, students recognize that working alongside robot engineers in Asia is important.”

 “The KAIST HUBO served as an effective platform to train students in both complex systems engineering and working in international design teams. The net effect is that humanoids have been an effective medium to make today’s American engineer more effective in a globalized work environment.”

Comparable in size and sophistication to Honda’s ASIMO but built at a fraction of the cost, HUBO 2 Plus is one of the world’s most advanced humanoid robots.  The Plus in its name comes from modifications made since HUBO 2’s creation in 2008, including an extra camera in its head.  For more than a decade universities in the United States have been lagging behind their Asian counterparts in the realm of humanoid robotics, but that’s about to change.  Each of the new robots will find permanent homes at Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Ohio State, Penn, Purdue, and Virginia Tech after students have been trained to work with them at Drexel University.  Another two have also been sold to universities in Singapore.

“”To date, all adult-sized humanoids have been individual custom-made units, and advances made using one design do not necessarily translate to others,” said Dr. Youngmoon Kim, an associate professor and assistant dean of media technologies in the College of Engineering and the director of the Music and Entertainment Technology (MET) Lab.  By working with the same robotics platform the teams will be able to share their work to accelerate humanoid development, just as they’ve done with Willow Garage’s PR2 and DARwIn-OP.  In the following clip of a recent experiment, the robot helps Dan Lofaro (whom we interviewed back in 2010) carry an object.

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I can’t wait to see what these robots will be doing in the near future!

[source: Drexel University] via [Physorg]

  • http://www.foundation-robotics.com/ David

    Oh ;-) good, nepotism works! Hence USA students will be able to change from simply lagging behind to learning to be operatives of other people’s humanoid robots. Great training for a customer base. Smart move by Korea.

    • Ashley from Canada

      There’s a lot of personal relationships in academia.  People work on projects that they started at other universities, collaborate with people they knew in their undergrad days, and correspond with their old advisors. In a specialized field, there may be only one journal to publish in or one conference to go to, so everybody knows each other.  If someone wants to follow in their dad’s footsteps, I wouldn’t call it nepotism.  It’s a guy acquiring the robots he’s familiar with.

      • http://www.foundation-robotics.com/ David

        Dreaming with your head in the sand is probably comfortable until you suffocate and die.
        If any of the participating Universities have learned enough, in say five years, to be able to contemplate designing and building their own humanoid I shall be very surprised. Until that happens they are just customers playing with new toys. Once upon a time it was Waveform Analysers, now its Humanoids. Still it should keep them in material for papers for a while. In the meantime Korea will be forging ahead with new designs.