Elastic Humanoid Robot Nails Balancing Act
We’re all familiar with the stereotype that a robot’s range of motion is limited to the stiff, herky-jerky motions of a machine. While much progress has been made in making robotic movement more fluid, here’s a humanoid that can really stand on its own two feet.
Developed by a team from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), COMAN (COmpliant huMANoid) is a robot that uses a combination of stiff and compliant joints giving it 25 degrees of freedom, or directions in which independent motion can occur.
COMAN’s compliant joints rely on a series of customized elastic actuators applied to the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders and elbows, helping them flex and extend more fluidly. Additionally, researchers equipped each elastic joint with custom-built torque sensors, including two six-axis force/torque sensors for the ankle joints. This all adds up to a humanoid robot that moves like Michael Jackson in his “Smooth Criminal” video.
Key to COMAN’s smooth moves are the actuators, which put a spring in the robot’s step and give it a remarkable sense of balance. Walking experiments showed COMAN’s hardware was able to absorb each footstep’s force of impact, doing away with the clunky gait normally associated with humanoid robots. But COMAN’s coolest feature is its stabilization control which gives it the ability to maintain a standing balance, even while getting shoved around.
COMAN is just over three feet tall and modeled after a four-year-old child. The robot’s internal structure is made of titanium alloy, stainless steel and aluminum alloy, all of which is covered by a plastic exoskeleton.