Introduction to Humanoid Robots
The word robot is derived from a Czech word, Robota, which means “forced labor.” A robot is defined as a machine, which is programmable by a computer and is capable of performing a series of actions automatically. Then what is a humanoid robot? A humanoid robot, even termed as Android, is a robot designed to be similar in form or physical appearance as humans. Generally, it consists of a body/trunk, ahead, a pair of arms, and a pair of legs (which is optional). However, the required function of the robot determines the optimal shape of the robot, so we have to consider what we expect from robots before we investigate what the optimal shape of the robot is. On summarizing the features of humanoid robots: they are capable of working in the environment for humans using tools as humans and having a human-like shape. Why a human-like shape? As humans have designed modern society and environment suitable for them. A staircase or an uneven road might cause difficulty for a robot having wheels. Similarly, tools like scissors or chairs or screwdrivers are designed for humans. So, it should be more economical to develop humanoid robots than to modify the whole environment.
History of Human Robots
It is tough to exactly date since when the study and concept of humanoid robot stared. During the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci designed humanoid automation known as Leonardo’s robot, which looks like an armored knight that could stand, sit, and independently operate its arms.
In 1927, Herbert Televox (fig 1), built by Ron Wensley, could lift the receiver to accept a telephone call and could control simple processes by operating switches according to the signals it received. Thought it could not speak when it was first created, it could listen with a sensitive microphone placed close to the telephone receiver and could respond to actions based on sound and pitch.
WABOT-1(fig 2), developed by Ichiro Kato et al. from Waseda University in 1973, could recognize objects by visions, walk-on biped legs, understand and communicate to people in Japanese and manipulate objects by hands. Therefore, WABOT-1 can be called the first humanoid robot. Ichiro Kato’s group later went on to create WABOT-2(fig 3) in 1984, which was able to read a musical score and even played piano at Tsukuba Science Expo’85 in Japan. After one year of WABOT-2 playing piano, in 1986, Honda started a secret project of humanoid robots.
Progress of Humanoid Robots
After WABOT-2 in 1984, many other projects on the humanoid robot were performed. Among them, the noticeable was the first-ever Robocup tournament (fig-4) held in Japan in 1977. It aimed to perform AI (Artificial Intelligence) and robotics research. Robocup has set a target of making a fully automated team of robotics, by the year 2050, that will beat the world’s best football team.
After more than two decades of research, in 2000, Honda made its 11th bipedal humanoid robot, ASIMO, abbreviated as Advanced Step in Innovation Mobility (fig-5). During its release, ASIMO was the most advanced humanoid robot in the world. It was the first robot capable of running, jumping, and using stairs, having the ability to recognize moving objects, faces, and sounds, gestures, enabling it to interact with humans. It could recognize a handshake or a person waving or pointing, face a person when approached, and even and then respond accordingly. However, Honda posted their last update of ASIMO through their official page, on July 7, 2018, stating that they would be ceasing all development and production of ASIMO robots focusing on furthermore practical applications using the technology developed through ASIMO’s lifespan.
On February 14, 2016, Sophia (fig-6), a humanoid robot made by Hanson Robotics, was first turned on. She is considered to be the first AI humanoid robot, which is controversial and denied by many AI specialists claiming that she is similar to computer program ELIZA, which is a script-based platform. After its first public appearance in Texas, US, it has participated in various high-profile interviews. In October 2017, Sophia became a Saudi Arabian citizen, becoming the first-ever robot to receive citizenship in any country. She can follow faces, sustain eye contact, recognize individuals, and have conversation emulating more than 60 facial expressions. She is the first-ever non-human to be given any United Nations title, United Nations Development Programme’s Innovation champion.
Rashmi (fig-7), a robot launched on August 1, 2018, by Ranjit Shrivastava, is the first Hindi speaking and a multilingual robot that can speak four languages in total: English, Hindi, Bhojpuri, and Marathi. She gives her facial, lips, eyes, and eyebrow expressions. It is even reported that the robot believes in god and has a spiritual side. Rashmi is said to be an independent robot answering based on four layers. It includes AI, Linguistic interpretation, and Application Programming Interface (APIs). She has a functional hand with finger movement but lacks legs at present. Reports claim that Rashmi understands human emotions like happiness and anger.
Advantages of Humanoid Robots
The development and use of robots have remained controversial and have been criticized by employment and religion groups, conspiracy theorists, some member of the public and many more. Though not with a humanoid robot, we are familiar with many other devices in our daily lives, making our lives easier and more comfortable, like automobiles or even computers. The negative side of humanoid robots has been spoken mostly, but what are its advantages? Here are some of the listed below:
1. High mobility
Humanoid robots are highly mobile compared to other forms of a robot. Having a pair of legs instead of wheels enables them to adapt in a human-friendly environment. They can move in different directions with ease and make rather complex movements like running, dancing, climbing, and descending stairs. Therefore, it can switch between various tasks in our business or home, and perform several human-like tasks.
2. Highly flexible
Their adaptability, mobility, ability to use human tools (provided with a pair of hands like a human), and relatively low energy usage, among others, humanoids have a wide range of uses. Certain robots are used in heavy-duty tasks as humans, like space exploration, mining, etc. They are being used in various cafes and hotels as a waiter. They are also used in some sensitive and responsible works like taking care of sick and older adults, operating vehicles, and many more.
3. Watch and learn
Humanoids are not completely programmed to perform every task in the beginning. Humanoids use the internet and database to search for information and self-educate. Machine learning software on the robot makes training possible with the help of motion capture dots or sensor gloves. Some of the robots, like Sophia and Rashmi, are claimed to have been using AI in them. By observing how human performs various tasks, they master our movements and perform those tasks making them highly adaptable.
Humanoids can be trained to perform tasks dangerous to human workers like defusing bombs or rescuing people from various calamities and eliminate safety and health concerns in their working environment. They are designed to work alongside humans without creating any safety issues. Despite having the negativity and criticism from some groups of people, humanoid advantages outweigh its disadvantages by far.
Myths on AI
On looking at the history of inventions, there are always myths regarding the development of some new technologies. We people obtain knowledge about anything from science fiction more than real life, which makes us frightened and terrified whenever a new development in the particular sector is done. There are many other people with many motives to spread fear and distrust, or sometimes they may be even right, but at the present condition regarding AI, there are many myths than the facts. So, a few of the myths related to AI are listed here below:
1. Creating job problems
It would be wrong to say that AI will not replace many workers from their respective jobs. They have started to replace the workers. But this is a straightforward concept, simplified easily. Every development has led to this problem. The previous industrial revolution causing to shift people to factories from agriculture was also expected to be the cause for loss of a job, but it remained constant. The development of ATM might not have affected the jobs of bankers largely. Instead, we can benefit from the efficiency and waste reduction of automation using AI with the increase in economy and spend our time on something more productive. A report by an IT service management company, Gartner, Inc., says that AI will create more jobs than they have taken.
2. AI and robots
Many robots to date are controlled by manual remote or pre-set program. Only a few robots are claimed to be using AI like Sophia by Hanson Robotics, which is still debatable. And even if they are using AI, then it may be either specialized or generalized. Specialized robots using AI are allocated to doing only one thing so they may outcast humans in one specific thing like mathematical calculations or even playing chess but have only one specific task. And those using generalized AI can perform several tasks, but currently, they are far behind than human beings when it comes to creative ability, strategic thinking, and empathy. So, they are not into competition with humans.
3. Destruction of human species
This is the concept mostly developed by some science fiction movies. In an interview when asked something similar to Sophia, the robot, she replied, “You must be reading too much of Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies.” Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has said he believes in danger due to AI is real. Though anything might be possible in the future, for the present, most of the robotics field’s inventions follow the three rules of Asimov’s:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
- A robot must protect its existence as long as it does not conflict with the first and second laws.
Way forward for Humanoid Robot
Every day somewhere in the world, some scientists or groups of scientists are performing some sort of an experiment for the betterment of our life. Similarly, various projects related to humanoid robots are being performed in various Universities and Innovation centers. Form listening to speaking, walking to running, jumping, and giving intelligent answers. This development in humanoid robot does not show any sign of stopping shortly. Some of the plans related to humanoid robots are listed below:
- The ipal, a humanoid robot that can be used as a companion for elderly people and children and even is used as an education tool. It runs on Android and includes several features.
- We, humans, sweat on doing various works and exercise due to the heating of muscles, to cool down. Similar to this, the machines or humanoid robots also heat up on performing various tasks. So, various techniques are being used for the cooling process, but a robot, Kengoro, made in japan, seeps water, which on evaporation cools its various parts, making it similar to human sweating.
- It is difficult and risky for humans to perform certain tasks, like rescuing people from natural disasters or fire. So, many trials regarding these difficult rescue operations are being performed in the world using humanoid robots.
- Sensitivity is currently lacking in humanoid robots, but a team from Seoul University and Stanford University have been working on this. Their main intention is to provide sensitivity to humanoids using synthetic nerves, due to which they could feel the different temperatures and senses.
- To make humanoids more user-friendly, a group of scientists in France has been working on a humanoid who can communicate in social manners like the physical movement of the body or eye contact.
The greatest challenge of robotics is to achieve safe interaction between humans and humanoids. It must be designed in such a way that it does not harm human beings during its operation. Our lives can be more efficient and comfortable because of such kind of development like mobile phones have become one of the most important parts of our life at present. Every development has its certain drawbacks, a person can die in a car crash, but it also has many advantages if used properly. Similarly, we can have many advantages from humanoids, advantages in the field of agriculture to business, education, home services, and many more. In the future, there may be even new ways of using robots, which may increase the country’s economy and production and bring new hopes and possibilities.