There are many robots that do not resemble humans in the slightest, and many don’t need to, even if they are designed to assist humans or complete tasks that humans would normally do. But one robot that doesn’t even come close to having humanoid appearance is NASA’s RoboSimian.
Developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, RoboSimian is a unique four-footed robot that mimics an ape. The robot has the ability to walk on four feet or sit back on its hind legs and use its two arms and hands. It can also anchor itself to stair treads, ladders and railings and brace itself for extra stability. According to a report by NASA, the bot is inspired by the movement of primates, RoboSimian can also manipulate objects, open doors, pick up wood and tighten bolts. By folding up its jointed legs it can also quickly become more compact.
RoboSimian was one of 16 robots competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials in Homestead, Florida, in April 2014. The purpose of the competition was to challenge the robots with disaster relief tasks. Robots such as this one could become a crucial component to disaster relief work because they can enter areas that are too hazardous for humans, such as a leaking nuclear power reactor or dangerous flood zone.
NASA is not the only organization developing robots for disaster relief. In 2013, DARPA unveiled the 6-foot-2-inch, 300-pound Atlas robot designed by Boston Dynamics to deal with disaster relief tasks. The humanoid robot was programmed to get in and out of a car, drive a car, open doors and use power tools.
Honda has also reported developing a robot equipped for disaster relief at nuclear power plants and industrial sites. This robot, a taller, stronger version of Honda’s ASIMO, will be able to crawl through wreckage and operate doors, water valves and switches. Such advanced robot technology will mean that in the future when we have to face disasters such as the incident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, robots can be directed to secure the disaster zone and the risk to human lives will be minimal.
Image credit: NASA