This coming weekend, a competition called the DARPA Robotics Challenge is being held to test the skills of robots designed to assist people in disasters. Most of these robots resemble humans in that they have two arms and two legs as well as a head. The human form is flexible. It can walk, run, bend, squat, jump and manipulate several different objects at once -- a capability that no robot has, just yet.
Although the human form is tricky to mimic, it seems almost necessary as people and machines work more closely together in factories, hospitals, rescue operations and more.
"We already have all the tools," said Frank Tobe, Editor and Publisher at The Robot Report. "We just need to get a robot to be able to use them. A robot arm has to have enough strength to pick up a Black and Decker, screw in a change of tools and go off and use it."
Robots that mimic the human shape can not only use human tools, but operate better in homes and workspaces designed for people.
As robots begin to look more like humans, they'll start to act like them, displaying individual "personalities." But there's a fine line between resembling a human and being mistaken for one. Robots that look too human creep out people, a concept roboticists call the uncanny valley.
It's one of many challenges researchers face as they design and build robots that walk and talk like humans.