Walk-Man is an advanced humanoid robot built to replace humans in emergency situations. Matthew Stock reports.
This is Walk-Man - he's a robot designed to fit in a world built for humans. Walk-Man can operate tools and interact with his environment in the same way that a person does. He was built by roboticists from the Italian Institute of Technology and University of Pisa. They say his anthropomorphic design is better-suited for replacing humans in hazardous environments than wheeled or four-legged robots. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NIKOS TSAGARAKIS, IIT SENIOR RESEARCHER - WALK-MAN PROJECT COORDINATOR AND SCIENTIFIC COORDINATOR, SAYING: "There's one factor that everyone agrees, that actually our world, our environment it was designed for our body basically. So, we have tools that are designed to be grasped by humanoid, human hands. You have also areas or access paths that are actually appropriate for our body forms. So it means that if you build a robot that has a very similar form, you need to adapt less the environment in order to have this robot operational within such a space." Standing more than six feet tall, Walk-Man's head is fitted with a stereo vision system and a rotating 3D laser scanner to help decipher his environment. His dexterity and strength means he performs tasks with man-like movement. The team is working on algorithms that will give him the cognitive ability to reach out to support himself while walking over rough terrain. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NIKOS TSAGARAKIS, IIT SENIOR RESEARCHER - WALK-MAN PROJECT COORDINATOR AND SCIENTIFIC COORDINATOR, SAYING: "We believe that - as humans also do - that legs are not only enough. You have to use also the arms, you have to be able to grasp the environment and actually assist your locomotion by creating additional contacts with the environmental balance. And this will make a big difference in humanoids where currently the technology is limited to the solutions that provide the balance basically only using the lower body. Upper body is also important; especially if you want to pass through cluttered spaces and structural grounds and so on." The first prototype of Walk-Man took part in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals earlier this year. It showcased robots from around the world capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters.