Making Robots Move Like People [VIDEO]

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 22 2011 2:59 PM

Making Robots Move Like People [VIDEO]

Most people just can’t do the classic dance the robot. Training your muscles to move in that sharp-edged mechanical way requires body discipline, work, and no small amount of inborn talent.

What’s more difficult than getting a human to move like a robot? Getting a robot to move like a human.

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As IO9 reports, researchers from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems are working on algorithms to smooth out machines’ rigid movements.

One of the primary reasons why we still don’t have robot maids to neaten our homes and dust our shelves is dexterity: Imbuing robots with eye-hand coordination and ability has proven difficult. As the New York Times reported earlier this year, the seemingly simple act of folding a towel takes a robot an eternity in housekeeping terms: A popular video showing a towel-folding robot at work had to be sped up to 50x.

But there’s reason why robots need to be more humanlike in their movements: Matthew Walter, one of the MIT researchers, tells IO9, “People are most comfortable … when the robot behaves in a way that a human would." Widespread adoption of robots in the home and the workplace will require people to be comfortable. That may hinge on making the artificial look organic.

Read more on IO9.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.