10 Real-Life Robots You Won’t Believe Exist
One of the old clichés of new technology automatically associates the reality with conjectures and concepts found in science fiction. However, there is some truth to the adage, as many of the robots developed in the past decade have come to represent common themes found in the myriad genres of speculative literature. Those who do not follow advances in robotics may find themselves absolutely stunned at many of the mechanized marvels available today.
Many mainstream and alternative media outlets, including Huffington Post, Fox News, Slate, Telegraph, and the Boston Herald (among others) have opened up about the controversial Roxxxy. Scantily clad, customizable, weighing in at 120 pounds, and programmed for scintillating conversations about sports and other hobbies that supposedly interest all masculine kind, creator and founder of True Companion Douglas Hines has taken the Real Doll concept to the next inevitable phase with his robotic girlfriend. A few generations ahead of Blade Runner territory, Roxxxy comes with a multitude of different sexual personalities ranging from the vanilla to something straight out of a Dan Savage column and sets her owners back anywhere between $7,000 to $9,000. For ladies worried that their men will abandon them for their silicon ideal, a Rocky model is soon to come. Obviously, reactions to Roxxxy have been mixed, with many critics voicing concern over its potential social hazards and further risks to rapidly dissolving interpersonal communication.
Beyond the Uncanny Valley and ethical concerns of Roxxxy lay the chaste robotic maid Mahru-Z. Created by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Korea Times reports that the 1.3 meter, 55 kilogram butler is programmed to mimic human locomotion and is capable of recognizing and interacting with three-dimensional forms. It can also look at and fully comprehend projects that still need doing – including laundry, cooking with toasters and microwaves, and serving food – and travel a house autonomously in search of any clutter that needs picking up. Along with its predecessor Mahru-M, Mahru-Z can be controlled remotely, however its relative independence affords it more practical applications. Bum-jae You, head of KIST’s cognitive robot center, asserts that this fantastic robot can be sent to work in dangerous conditions unsuitable for human exploration. In addition, the elderly, disabled, and other individuals who have difficulty getting around the house will benefit from having one around that may save money on paying for an organic maid service.
3. Toyota’s Trumpet-Playing Robot
Toyota’s sleek, venerable robot can emulate human lip movement to the point it can play “When You Wish Upon a Star” on the trumpet. The as-yet-unnamed droid has also applied its musical prowess to conducting the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, according to the BBC. In spite of this extremely fun but seemingly mundane application, the technology that went into its production carries many positives for mankind. While currently considered a symbol of Toyota’s innovation (in the field of robotics, anyways), the Tokyo-based manufacturer states on its website that the machine’s fluid movements emulating human locomotion can help in the field of prosthetics, mobility for the disabled, and elder care.
4. Dancing Doll
Another startling triumph of robotics capable of almost perfectly mirroring human movement, the Dancing Doll – in all her near-traumatizing Uncanny Valley glory – has made a name for herself by being able to balance herself perfectly while executing an almost fluid polka. Occasionally referred to as “Alice,” this iron maiden boasts 25 servos, an accelerometer, and stands at a height of 60 centimeters. She is intended to look like a 15-year-old girl and sports a bizarrely eye-catching ensemble that seemingly throws together a number of different fetishes – probably not something that will make it down runways in New York, Paris, and Milan anytime soon. Stranger things have happened, though. Bot Junkie hosts a couple of videos of Dancing Doll getting her groove on the only way she knows how. As with the aforementioned robotic answer (almost) to Louis Armstrong, the polka may seem a frivolity but bodes positively for humanity’s future. It, too, marks a significant step forward in the robotics that will improve upon prosthetic limbs and help tend to the needs of the elderly and disabled.
Fox News seems to be the most mainstream news source that ran this particular story, although the blogosphere exploded with the intriguing story of CB2. Designed by researchers and developers at Osaka University, this strange and wonderful robot mimics the movement and behavior of a 1- to 3-year-old child with startling accuracy. It stands at 4 feet tall and weighs 73 pounds, and thanks to its 197 sensors and 56 actuators can react to its surroundings in a manner extremely similar to that of a child. For eyes, CB2 hosts a pair of cameras and can also speak with the help of an audio sensor and artificial vocal chords. When moving, it teeters and wobbles with uncertainty, as if a child learning to use its own two feet for the first time. The professor who oversaw the CB2 development, Minoru Asada, believes CB2 to be a valuable resource for anyone studying how children grow and interact with the world around them.
6. Rat-Brained Robot
Media outlets such as the BBC, Huffington Post, and Wired – among many others – found themselves shocked and amazed at the revolutionary robot controlled by a rat’s brain developed at the University of Reading. This amazing and innovative advancement connected a sonar-controlled robot with 300,000 neurons from a rat brain, and Dr. Ben Whalley, who spearheaded the project, trains it to progressively learn how to maneuver in and around walls and other roadblocks. The ultimate goal of this stunning amalgamation of organic and synthetic intelligence is to study the ways in which the mammalian brain forms, learns from, and retains memories. Working in tandem, the robotic and rodent brains will hopefully open up new information on possible cures for degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and other dementia issues. Perhaps further down the line, neurosurgeons could use elements of computer intelligence to allow those suffering from severe memory loss regain their cognitive abilities and lead happier, healthier lives.
7. Repliee Q1Expo
Repliee Q1Expo, according to the BBC, is considered one of the most convincing artificial humans to date. Osaka University’s Hiroshi Ishiguro prides himself on the element of surprising realism to his creations, and this gynoid appears as if a full-grown woman at first glance. As of 2005, sitting was one of the few motions she could execute flawlessly thanks to her 42 actuators. In spite of her limitations, however, everything Repliee Q1Expo is capable of comes with an impressively lifelike imitation of actual human movement. Ishiguro holds her up as proof that someday robots may possess the intelligence, locomotion, and looks to someday fully confuse humans – one of the very core paranoiac themes of science fiction.
Sold to the general public through Sakakibara Kikai, few articles express the sheer intimidating enormity of the Landwalker robot better than the write-up by the Gizmag technology blog. This bipedal monstrosity stands at 3.4 meters in height, weighs 1,000 kilograms, and moves along at the speed of 1.5 kilometers per hour with its 250cc four-stroke engine. In spite of the slothlike pace it travels at, Landwalker’s mere functionality can inspire immediate bowel evacuation. Stepping straight out of science fiction and nightmares, the human-powered exoskeleton comes equipped with two massive guns mounted on each side of the cockpit. At the moment all they shoot are light, harmless balls, but the obvious military applications of this stand as either highly disconcerting or ragingly exciting depending on one’s inclinations. Any enthusiastic mecha geeks can slam down $345,000 for a Landwalker, which is a fine sum when one considers how much revenge can be had for all those wedgies in high school.
The Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL), produced by Cyberdyne, is a full-body robotic exoskeleton closer to a suit of armor rather than a walking Japanese murder machine. At the moment, the 23 kilogram HAL reads minute nerve signals at the skin level, though Cyberdyne hopes to expand its capabilities to pick up on more sophisticated biofeedback. While not practical for everyday use at the moment, this wondrous device unlocks a multitude of doors when it comes to improving the lives and mobility of individuals with severe nerve damage and other degenerative disorders.
According to PC Magazine, Kawada Industries received multiple grants from the Japanese government to develop a 154 centimeter, 58 kilogram humanoid robot known as HRP-2 walks, talks (albeit rather difficult to decipher), lifts weights, balances on one foot, crosses its legs, walks planks and lays down – only to get back up. In spite of its obviously mechanical appearance, as with many other robots on this list it emulates human locomotion to a startling degree. HRP-2 even “sees” with the assistance of a few CCD cameras installed in its “eyes.” At the moment, there are no explicit plans for applying its technologies for the benefit of all mankind. However, HRP-2 is making the rounds at multiple universities and research facilities around the world so more engineers and technicians can understand how it works and what it may be capable of someday.
Obviously many more stunning examples of humanity’s ability to create near-perfect doppelgangers of themselves to fulfill a wide variety of functions exist beyond this listing. However, many will still find themselves in awe over the ones here and their implications for the future of mankind. Whether positive or negative, the technology that exists today carries with it the ability to permanently shape how human society operates.