The Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Zurich is aiming to develop one of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world. Furthermore, they intend to achieve this goal within just nine months.
Roboy was a project that began in May 2012, so the machine is already nearing completion. In March 2013, it will be revealed to the public at the Robots on Tour exhibition, to celebrate the laboratory's 25th anniversary.
There are 15 project partners and over 40 engineers and scientists working on Roboy. He is described as a "soft robot" – and a more advanced version of his older brother Ecce. Thanks to his construction as a tendon-driven robot modelled on human beings ("normal" robots use motors in their joints), he will move almost as elegantly as a real person. The team is even designing a tricycle for him to carry heavy objects more easily. Furthermore, at a later stage in the project, he will be covered in "soft skin", so that interacting with him becomes safer and more pleasant.
Creating humanoid androids is a great challenge for researchers. Elements such as quick, smooth movements or durable yet flexible and soft skin are difficult to recreate. Fundamental new discoveries are needed for this purpose. It is precisely through projects like Roboy that innovation is possible. The findings from his predecessor "Ecce" are being studied and evaluated, leading to design improvements and new materials. A robotics platform is being created to investigate and further develop the principles of tendon-driven drive technology.
Another innovative aspect of Roboy is the way he is financed, through sponsorship and crowd funding. Those supporting the project benefit not only from direct access to the expertise involved, but also brand recognition: their names or company logos are engraved onto the robot.
Service robots are already being used today for household chores, surveillance work and cleaning, but also in hospitals and care homes. Our aging population means that in the future, caring for older people will be a vital area for the deployment of these machines. We can very safely assume that service robots will be widespread in the future, perhaps even as commonplace as everyday objects like cars and computers are today.
The laboratory has now released a teaser video. For more information, visit Roboy's official website. You can also follow his progress on Facebook.