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My seven species of robot -- and how we created them

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    So, the first robot to talk about is called STriDER.
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    It stands for Self-excited
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    Tripedal Dynamic Experimental Robot.
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    It's a robot that has three legs,
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    which is inspired by nature.
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    But have you seen anything in nature,
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    an animal that has three legs?
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    Probably not. So, why do I call this
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    a biologically inspired robot? How would it work?
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    But before that, let's look at pop culture.
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    So, you know H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds," novel and movie.
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    And what you see over here is a very popular
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    video game,
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    and in this fiction they describe these alien creatures that
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    are robots that have three legs that terrorize Earth.
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    But my robot, STriDER, does not move like this.
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    So, this is an actual dynamic simulation animation.
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    I'm just going to show you how the robot works.
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    It flips its body 180 degrees
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    and it swings its leg between the two legs and catches the fall.
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    So, that's how it walks. But when you look at us
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    human being, bipedal walking,
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    what you're doing is you're not really using a muscle
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    to lift your leg and walk like a robot. Right?
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    What you're doing is you really swing your leg and catch the fall,
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    stand up again, swing your leg and catch the fall.
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    You're using your built-in dynamics, the physics of your body,
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    just like a pendulum.
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    We call that the concept of passive dynamic locomotion.
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    What you're doing is, when you stand up,
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    potential energy to kinetic energy,
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    potential energy to kinetic energy.
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    It's a constantly falling process.
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    So, even though there is nothing in nature that looks like this,
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    really, we were inspired by biology
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    and applying the principles of walking
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    to this robot. Thus it's a biologically inspired robot.
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    What you see over here, this is what we want to do next.
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    We want to fold up the legs and shoot it up for long-range motion.
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    And it deploys legs -- it looks almost like "Star Wars" --
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    when it lands, it absorbs the shock and starts walking.
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    What you see over here, this yellow thing, this is not a death ray. (Laughter)
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    This is just to show you that if you have cameras
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    or different types of sensors --
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    because it is tall, it's 1.8 meters tall --
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    you can see over obstacles like bushes and those kinds of things.
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    So we have two prototypes.
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    The first version, in the back, that's STriDER I.
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    The one in front, the smaller, is STriDER II.
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    The problem that we had with STriDER I is
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    it was just too heavy in the body. We had so many motors,
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    you know, aligning the joints, and those kinds of things.
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    So, we decided to synthesize a mechanical mechanism
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    so we could get rid of all the motors, and with a single motor
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    we can coordinate all the motions.
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    It's a mechanical solution to a problem, instead of using mechatronics.
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    So, with this now the top body is light enough. So, it's walking in our lab;
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    this was the very first successful step.
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    It's still not perfected -- its coffee falls down --
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    so we still have a lot of work to do.
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    The second robot I want to talk about is called IMPASS.
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    It stands for Intelligent Mobility Platform with Actuated Spoke System.
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    So, it's a wheel-leg hybrid robot.
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    So, think of a rimless wheel
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    or a spoke wheel,
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    but the spokes individually move in and out of the hub;
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    so, it's a wheel-leg hybrid.
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    We are literally re-inventing the wheel here.
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    Let me demonstrate how it works.
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    So, in this video we're using an approach
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    called the reactive approach.
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    Just simply using the tactile sensors on the feet,
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    it's trying to walk over a changing terrain,
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    a soft terrain where it pushes down and changes.
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    And just by the tactile information,
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    it successfully crosses over these type of terrain.
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    But, when it encounters a very extreme terrain,
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    in this case, this obstacle is more than three times
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    the height of the robot,
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    Then it switches to a deliberate mode,
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    where it uses a laser range finder,
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    and camera systems, to identify the obstacle and the size,
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    and it plans, carefully plans the motion of the spokes
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    and coordinates it so that it can show this
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    kind of very very impressive mobility.
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    You probably haven't seen anything like this out there.
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    This is a very high mobility robot
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    that we developed called IMPASS.
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    Ah, isn't that cool?
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    When you drive your car,
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    when you steer your car, you use a method
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    called Ackermann steering.
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    The front wheels rotate like this.
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    For most small wheeled robots,
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    they use a method called differential steering
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    where the left and right wheel turns the opposite direction.
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    For IMPASS, we can do many, many different types of motion.
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    For example, in this case, even though the left and right wheel is connected
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    with a single axle rotating at the same angle of velocity.
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    We just simply change the length of the spoke.
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    It affects the diameter and then can turn to the left, turn to the right.
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    So, these are just some examples of the neat things
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    that we can do with IMPASS.
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    This robot is called CLIMBeR:
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    Cable-suspended Limbed Intelligent Matching Behavior Robot.
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    So, I've been talking to a lot of NASA JPL scientists --
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    at JPL they are famous for the Mars rovers --
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    and the scientists, geologists always tell me
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    that the real interesting science,
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    the science-rich sites, are always at the cliffs.
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    But the current rovers cannot get there.
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    So, inspired by that we wanted to build a robot
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    that can climb a structured cliff environment.
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    So, this is CLIMBeR.
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    So, what it does, it has three legs. It's probably difficult to see,
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    but it has a winch and a cable at the top --
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    and it tries to figure out the best place to put its foot.
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    And then once it figures that out
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    in real time, it calculates the force distribution:
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    how much force it needs to exert to the surface
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    so it doesn't tip and doesn't slip.
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    Once it stabilizes that, it lifts a foot,
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    and then with the winch it can climb up these kinds of thing.
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    Also for search and rescue applications as well.
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    Five years ago I actually worked at NASA JPL
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    during the summer as a faculty fellow.
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    And they already had a six legged robot called LEMUR.
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    So, this is actually based on that. This robot is called MARS:
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    Multi-Appendage Robotic System. So, it's a hexapod robot.
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    We developed our adaptive gait planner.
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    We actually have a very interesting payload on there.
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    The students like to have fun. And here you can see that it's
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    walking over unstructured terrain.
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    It's trying to walk on the coarse terrain,
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    sandy area,
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    but depending on the moisture content or the grain size of the sand
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    the foot's soil sinkage model changes.
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    So, it tries to adapt its gait to successfully cross over these kind of things.
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    And also, it does some fun stuff, as can imagine.
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    We get so many visitors visiting our lab.
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    So, when the visitors come, MARS walks up to the computer,
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    starts typing "Hello, my name is MARS."
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    Welcome to RoMeLa,
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    the Robotics Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech.
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    This robot is an amoeba robot.
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    Now, we don't have enough time to go into technical details,
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    I'll just show you some of the experiments.
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    So, this is some of the early feasibility experiments.
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    We store potential energy to the elastic skin to make it move.
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    Or use an active tension cords to make it move
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    forward and backward. It's called ChIMERA.
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    We also have been working with some scientists
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    and engineers from UPenn
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    to come up with a chemically actuated version
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    of this amoeba robot.
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    We do something to something
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    And just like magic, it moves. The blob.
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    This robot is a very recent project. It's called RAPHaEL.
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    Robotic Air Powered Hand with Elastic Ligaments.
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    There are a lot of really neat, very good robotic hands out there in the market.
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    The problem is they're just too expensive, tens of thousands of dollars.
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    So, for prosthesis applications it's probably not too practical,
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    because it's not affordable.
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    We wanted to go tackle this problem in a very different direction.
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    Instead of using electrical motors, electromechanical actuators,
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    we're using compressed air.
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    We developed these novel actuators for joints.
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    It is compliant. You can actually change the force,
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    simply just changing the air pressure.
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    And it can actually crush an empty soda can.
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    It can pick up very delicate objects like a raw egg,
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    or in this case, a lightbulb.
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    The best part, it took only $200 dollars to make the first prototype.
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    This robot is actually a family of snake robots
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    that we call HyDRAS,
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    Hyper Degrees-of-freedom Robotic Articulated Serpentine.
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    This is a robot that can climb structures.
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    This is a HyDRAS's arm.
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    It's a 12 degrees of freedom robotic arm.
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    But the cool part is the user interface.
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    The cable over there, that's an optical fiber.
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    And this student, probably the first time using it,
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    but she can articulate it many different ways.
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    So, for example in Iraq, you know, the war zone,
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    there is roadside bombs. Currently you send these
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    remotely controlled vehicles that are armed.
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    It takes really a lot of time and it's expensive
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    to train the operator to operate this complex arm.
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    In this case it's very intuitive;
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    this student, probably his first time using it, doing very complex manipulation tasks,
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    picking up objects and doing manipulation,
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    just like that. Very intuitive.
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    Now, this robot is currently our star robot.
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    We actually have a fan club for the robot, DARwIn:
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    Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence.
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    As you know, we are very interested in
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    humanoid robot, human walking,
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    so we decided to build a small humanoid robot.
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    This was in 2004; at that time,
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    this was something really, really revolutionary.
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    This was more of a feasibility study:
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    What kind of motors should we use?
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    Is it even possible? What kinds of controls should we do?
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    So, this does not have any sensors.
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    So, it's an open loop control.
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    For those who probably know, if you don't have any sensors
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    and there are any disturbances, you know what happens.
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    (Laughter)
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    So, based on that success, the following year
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    we did the proper mechanical design
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    starting from kinematics.
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    And thus, DARwIn I was born in 2005.
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    It stands up, it walks -- very impressive.
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    However, still, as you can see,
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    it has a cord, umbilical cord. So, we're still using an external power source
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    and external computation.
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    So, in 2006, now it's really time to have fun.
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    Let's give it intelligence. We give it all the computing power it needs:
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    a 1.5 gigahertz Pentium M chip,
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    two FireWire cameras, rate gyros, accelerometers,
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    four force sensors on the foot, lithium polymer batteries.
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    And now DARwIn II is completely autonomous.
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    It is not remote controlled.
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    There are no tethers. It looks around, searches for the ball,
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    looks around, searches for the ball, and it tries to play a game of soccer,
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    autonomously: artificial intelligence.
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    Let's see how it does. This was our very first trial,
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    and... Spectators (Video): Goal!
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    Dennis Hong: So, there is actually a competition called RoboCup.
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    I don't know how many of you have heard about RoboCup.
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    It's an international autonomous robot soccer competition.
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    And the goal of RoboCup, the actual goal is,
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    by the year 2050
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    we want to have full size, autonomous humanoid robots
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    play soccer against the human World Cup champions
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    and win.
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    It's a true actual goal. It's a very ambitious goal,
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    but we truly believe that we can do it.
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    So, this is last year in China.
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    We were the very first team in the United States that qualified
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    in the humanoid RoboCup competition.
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    This is this year in Austria.
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    You're going to see the action, three against three,
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    completely autonomous.
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    There you go. Yes!
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    The robots track and they
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    team play amongst themselves.
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    It's very impressive. It's really a research event
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    packaged in a more exciting competition event.
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    What you see over here, this is the beautiful
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    Louis Vuitton Cup trophy.
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    So, this is for the best humanoid,
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    and we would like to bring this for the very first time, to the United States
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    next year, so wish us luck.
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    (Applause)
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    Thank you.
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    DARwIn also has a lot of other talents.
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    Last year it actually conducted the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra
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    for the holiday concert.
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    This is the next generation robot, DARwIn IV,
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    but smarter, faster, stronger.
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    And it's trying to show off its ability:
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    "I'm macho, I'm strong.
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    I can also do some Jackie Chan-motion,
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    martial art movements."
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    (Laughter)
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    And it walks away. So, this is DARwIn IV.
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    And again, you'll be able to see it in the lobby.
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    We truly believe this is going to be the very first running
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    humanoid robot in the United States. So, stay tuned.
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    All right. So I showed you some of our exciting robots at work.
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    So, what is the secret of our success?
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    Where do we come up with these ideas?
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    How do we develop these kinds of ideas?
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    We have a fully autonomous vehicle
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    that can drive into urban environments. We won a half a million dollars
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    in the DARPA Urban Challenge.
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    We also have the world's very first
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    vehicle that can be driven by the blind.
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    We call it the Blind Driver Challenge, very exciting.
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    And many, many other robotics projects I want to talk about.
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    These are just the awards that we won in 2007 fall
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    from robotics competitions and those kinds of things.
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    So, really, we have five secrets.
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    First is: Where do we get inspiration?
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    Where do we get this spark of imagination?
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    This is a true story, my personal story.
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    At night when I go to bed, 3 - 4 a.m. in the morning,
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    I lie down, close my eyes, and I see these lines and circles
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    and different shapes floating around.
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    And they assemble, and they form these kinds of mechanisms.
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    And then I think, "Ah this is cool."
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    So, right next to my bed I keep a notebook,
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    a journal, with a special pen that has a light on it, LED light,
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    because I don't want to turn on the light and wake up my wife.
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    So, I see this, scribble everything down, draw things,
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    and I go to bed.
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    Every day in the morning,
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    the first thing I do before my first cup of coffee,
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    before I brush my teeth, I open my notebook.
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    Many times it's empty,
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    sometimes I have something there -- if something's there, sometimes it's junk --
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    but most of the time I can't even read my handwriting.
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    And so, 4 am in the morning, what do you expect, right?
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    So, I need to decipher what I wrote.
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    But sometimes I see this ingenious idea in there,
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    and I have this eureka moment.
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    I directly run to my home office, sit at my computer,
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    I type in the ideas, I sketch things out
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    and I keep a database of ideas.
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    So, when we have these calls for proposals,
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    I try to find a match between my
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    potential ideas
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    and the problem. If there is a match we write a research proposal,
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    get the research funding in, and that's how we start our research programs.
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    But just a spark of imagination is not good enough.
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    How do we develop these kinds of ideas?
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    At our lab RoMeLa, the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory,
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    we have these fantastic brainstorming sessions.
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    So, we gather around, we discuss about problems
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    and social problems and talk about it.
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    But before we start we set this golden rule.
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    The rule is:
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    Nobody criticizes anybody's ideas.
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    Nobody criticizes any opinion.
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    This is important, because many times students, they fear
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    or they feel uncomfortable how others might think
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    about their opinions and thoughts.
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    So, once you do this, it is amazing
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    how the students open up.
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    They have these wacky, cool, crazy, brilliant ideas, and
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    the whole room is just electrified with creative energy.
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    And this is how we develop our ideas.
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    Well, we're running out of time. One more thing I want to talk about is,
  • 14:08 - 14:12
    you know, just a spark of idea and development is not good enough.
  • 14:12 - 14:14
    There was a great TED moment,
  • 14:14 - 14:17
    I think it was Sir Ken Robinson, was it?
  • 14:17 - 14:19
    He gave a talk about how education
  • 14:19 - 14:21
    and school kills creativity.
  • 14:21 - 14:24
    Well, actually, there are two sides to the story.
  • 14:24 - 14:27
    So, there is only so much one can do
  • 14:27 - 14:29
    with just ingenious ideas
  • 14:29 - 14:32
    and creativity and good engineering intuition.
  • 14:32 - 14:34
    If you want to go beyond a tinkering,
  • 14:34 - 14:36
    if you want to go beyond a hobby of robotics
  • 14:36 - 14:39
    and really tackle the grand challenges of robotics
  • 14:39 - 14:41
    through rigorous research
  • 14:41 - 14:44
    we need more than that. This is where school comes in.
  • 14:44 - 14:47
    Batman, fighting against bad guys,
  • 14:47 - 14:49
    he has his utility belt, he has his grappling hook,
  • 14:49 - 14:51
    he has all different kinds of gadgets.
  • 14:51 - 14:53
    For us roboticists, engineers and scientists,
  • 14:53 - 14:58
    these tools, these are the courses and classes you take in class.
  • 14:58 - 15:00
    Math, differential equations.
  • 15:00 - 15:02
    I have linear algebra, science, physics,
  • 15:02 - 15:05
    even nowadays, chemistry and biology, as you've seen.
  • 15:05 - 15:07
    These are all the tools that we need.
  • 15:07 - 15:09
    So, the more tools you have, for Batman,
  • 15:09 - 15:11
    more effective at fighting the bad guys,
  • 15:11 - 15:15
    for us, more tools to attack these kinds of big problems.
  • 15:15 - 15:18
    So, education is very important.
  • 15:18 - 15:20
    Also, it's not about that,
  • 15:20 - 15:22
    only about that. You also have to work really, really hard.
  • 15:22 - 15:24
    So, I always tell my students,
  • 15:24 - 15:26
    "Work smart, then work hard."
  • 15:26 - 15:29
    This picture in the back this is 3 a.m. in the morning.
  • 15:29 - 15:31
    I guarantee if you come to your lab at 3 - 4 am
  • 15:31 - 15:33
    we have students working there,
  • 15:33 - 15:36
    not because I tell them to, but because we are having too much fun.
  • 15:36 - 15:38
    Which leads to the last topic:
  • 15:38 - 15:40
    Do not forget to have fun.
  • 15:40 - 15:43
    That's really the secret of our success, we're having too much fun.
  • 15:43 - 15:46
    I truly believe that highest productivity comes when you're having fun,
  • 15:46 - 15:48
    and that's what we're doing.
  • 15:48 - 15:50
    There you go. Thank you so much.
  • 15:50 - 15:55
    (Applause)
Title:
My seven species of robot -- and how we created them
Speaker:
Dennis Hong
Description:

At TEDxNASA, Dennis Hong introduces seven award-winning, all-terrain robots -- like the humanoid, soccer-playing DARwIn and the cliff-gripping CLIMBeR -- all built by his team at RoMeLa, Virginia Tech. Watch to the end to hear the five creative secrets to his lab's incredible technical success.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
15:57

English subtitles

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