Written for the University of Michigan’s One Cool Thing mobile app (09/01/15)
Control its movement, feel what it feels.
A functional, agile, and autonomous humanoid robot is not one so easily made. So far we’ve seen our best efforts topple over repeatedly when tasked with merely walking. However, as researchers at MIT have proven, a robot that acts as a puppet to a human controller is much closer to fruition than its independent counterparts. Gizmodo reports that HERMES’ human puppeteer wears an intricate control suit and a pair of LCD telepresence goggles so it sees everything the robot does, allowing the robot to go places humans can’t (i.e. a nuclear reactor post meltdown). The really mind blowing feature of this suit is that it employs a certain force feedback that allows the controller to feel what is being exerted on the robot to better allow it to keep its balance. Right now, this human controlled robot is perhaps decades ahead of its fully autonomous peers — and has the added benefit that our control over it hinders its ability to rise up and take over the world.