Based on what we've seen at DARPA's Robotics challenge finals, most humanoid machines are still stiff and hilariously clumsy. MIT's new robot named "Hermes," however, moves a bit more gracefully and has human-like reflexes -- because it's hooked up to a human controller. Think Pacific Rim, except Hermes isn't a giant robot and the pilot doesn't have to ride inside it, or Real Steel. The school's Department of Mechanical Engineering's creation can mimic its "master's" movements at the same time. For more delicate actions that require the use of its hands and fingers, the human has to use a joystick-like device.
As you'd expect, the machine is much stronger than humans and can be sent to dangerous locations for search and rescue operations. If its pilot can't follow it closely -- say, in places too toxic or dangerous for people -- he has to wear a heads-up display to see what it's seeing. The developers plan to give it "some level of autonomous control" in the future, though, perhaps to make sure it can still function in case its connection with the pilot gets severed.
As it is mentioned on “Popular Science”, Joao Ramos, a PhD student,describes the whole project as an effort to get a human, on a robot’s mind. And due to that statement, many sci-fi fans, have already imagined Hermes as a gigantic robot like the ones shown in the movie Pacific Rim, operated by specially trained pilots using army drones. Well it might not be accurate but it is definitely very interesting!
The concept for the use of this complicated humanoid, is that the operator will be able to move the robot from a screen. And while this might seem pretty wicked advanced on its own, researchers believe that it’s only the beginning. In the near future, Hermes could very likely have autonomy and self-control of his movements, as programmers want to make sure that he will keep his functionality even in case the connection with the operator is lost.
Hermes is designed so that he can correspond to situations where humans fail to do so. For example, thanks to the robot’s strength – Hermes is obviously much stronger than any human – it could be sent to help in rescue operations and save people as well as precious resources that would by spent for the operation otherwise.
“The processing of images is typically very slow, so a robot has difficulty reacting in time,” says Ramos, of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Instead, we’d like to use the human’s natural reflexes and coordination. An example is walking, which is just a process of falling and catching yourself. That’s something that feels effortless to us, but it’s challenging to program into a robot to do it both dynamically and efficiently. We want to explore how humans can take over complex actions for the robot.”
Albert Wang, another PhD student and coworker of Joao Ramos, says: “The human's still going to provide that creativity, that problem-solving and that large-scale coordination of all the joints, but we've designed the robot to be stronger than a person, so we'd imagine that in the future we want to merge some level of autonomous control along with the human's intelligence.”