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follow us with insidescience and take a peek overthe shoulders of researchers. in this episode:"what do we need for a humanoid robot?" mechatronics. learning. interaction hearing about robotswe associate images that trigger strong emotions, but most of us have never seena robot in reality. industrial robots revolutionizedproduction processes in the last 50 years. today we want robotsto get out of the factories
and closer to people asmodern helpers in private homes. how must a machine be designed that has to move in an environment built for humans, that is supposed to help humans and that can be controlledby humans as easily as possible. at the karlsruhe institute of technologyresearchers of many different fields are working on the construction of a humanoid robot. the goal of the collaborative research centerâ€žhumanoid robots" was to develop
a multimodal, learning, co-operating robot. it was supposed to have a humanoid,a human-like form, move in a natural, human-like wayand to be interactive above all else. now we are capable of building robots that,in contrast to the industry robots that statically complete tasks, can be described as humanoid. this is an ancient human ambition
that can be achieved today,for about the past 20 years. on the other hand no one has anyhousehold robots that clean up the table, do the dishes or load the dishes into the dishwasher. we still have to do all that ourselves. if we want a flexible machine that can pretty much execute anymovement after instruction by a human we are still a long way away from that.
â€žhumanoid" means acting like a human. if we want that we need to transfer certain human attributes to the robot. first of all it has to be able to walk,to grip things, it has to feel, it has to move. and of course it has to see,that means it has to record what is happening around it.
we have to see how our environmentis actually arranged, what can we do and how we cangive instructions to a machine so that the machine can understand what we expect of it. a robot that helps with household tasks has to act like a human. it has to perceivethe world like a human and understand theinstructions of a human.
how do the research fields work together? robotics in general isan inter-disciplinary field. that means that we have to combinethe knowledge and expertiseof the seperate fields and create synergies. if we want to build a robot, first the mechanical engineershave to build a machine. first they build the body. that means that we needthe fields of mechanics, mechatronics andmechanical engineering.
furthermore we have theinterface to the sensors, the preprocessing of the signalsand their interpretation. a robot that is supposedto see needs cameras. one that is supposed tohear needs microphones. also they need arms and legs. additionally we have the conversioninto movement and actions. in order for the robot to move we need motors, generally electric motors.
that is why we need the fieldof electrical engineering. on the other handwe need seeing machines, that means the automated conversionof picture, sound, video, language and acoustics or ratherthe processing of signals. we also need the ideas of thehumanities and social sciences. of these specifically thesports science field is integrated with us. in robotics the mechatronics,the electrical engineers,the computer scientists, the mechanical engineers and even the sports scientists come together. what role do the three main columns of mechatronics, learning and interaction play?
the robot and the car are prime examplesfor the basic idea of mechatronics. the basic idea of mechatronics isto work together with multidisciplinary fields. that means that mechanical engineering,electrical engineering, automation engineering andcomputer science are combined. not all situations in everydaylife are predictable. that means that the robot needsknowledge about what it can do,about the consequences of its actions so that it can estimate their outcome. learning from the human brain is important. how do we represent knowledge,how do we recognize it?
how can we automaticallylearn from that knowledge? a robot learns in a varietyof ways through experiments,through trial and error. but it can also be taught by a human, or it watches humans executing actions. learning through knowledgeof the world and its environment, that means knowledge about the components that are found ina kitchen for instance and the functionalityof the relevant appliancesis necessary for a robot. at the same time ithas to observe the human,
what he does, what he needs, how he reacts, so that the robot can adaptto the situation in the environment. imagine for instance that i'm sitting in the living room and say:"i'm thirsty now!" then the robot should be able not just to say:â€žthat is very nice!", but it should say: and possible even tactile signals.
â€žshould i get you a beer,or do you want a glass of milk?" this differentiation has to combine the comprehension ofwhat the person said and the implicit requestfor something to drink. here we have, i can say withoutmuch ceremony, the best hand in the world. we also have developed the legs so far that we can say that we have legsthat work very well. these four fields build the body,measurement technology,
sensor technology, control technology,data processing, computer science andthe realization in actuation,so that it can move. those are the fourcentral fields of mechatronics. we call this multi-modality when we combine different signals. we combine video, acoustic all that happens in the interaction. we try to understand ourenvironment through interaction and this allows the robot toreact to its surroundings accordingly.
the robot is supposed toadapt to its surroundings and react to it in a meaningful way. what was the biggest challenge? the biggest challenge of thecollaborative research center was that we had underestimatedthe complexity of the mechatronics and the integrationof all components. the biggest challengewith such a robotfrom the perspective of interaction is to come to terms with allthe uncertainties and variablesof the surrounding environment and the interaction with humans.
we are virtually always guessing: was it this or was it that? maybe he just said â€žtable"or maybe â€žcable". we solve this problem with the help ofadditional knowledge. in this sentence maybeâ€žcable" is more plausible, in another sentenceâ€žtable" makes more sense. that means that weunderstand sentences because we combine differentsources of information.
i believe the biggestchallenge is that,and you need to know that, in a collaborative research centerevery year twenty to twenty four young people that are each workingon single projects come together, that they co-operate,that they exchange their ideas, that they use the creativitythat young people especially have when they come directlyfrom school or from university. that they use this here so that we really build what these young people imagine.
so building a robotis not easy at all. especially because thesurroundings keep changing. and in the end the young studentsshould be able to use their creativity. and the future? if you look at robots todaythey are still very slow. i think that future robots will bemore precise and will perform better. today the sentences spoken to the robothave to be very precise, partially still in written form. the interaction is limitedto pointing gestures
and gripping processes while more complex action sequences, like repairing adevice or manufacturing an object, making a cupboard, a chair or a table are very difficult and need mucheffort to be transferred onto a robot. it would be interesting if a robot could learnfrom another robot. that means that it could transfer itsacquired knowledge to another machine,
if they could exchangeexperience, algorithms or visual and perceptive skills. this can be raised even further when many robotsexchange information or if robots generally surfthe web and acquire the information they need worldwide. the kit series insidesciencetakes a peek over theshoulder of researchers of the collaborative research center. take a look at the other episodes
and see how a robot isdesigned, how it learns, how it interacts with humans and which social aspectshave to be discussed.