Style ro­bot takes first baby steps

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - In Gunpo, South Korea

A gi­ant South Korean-built manned ro­bot that walks like a hu­man but makes the ground shake un­der its weight has taken its first baby steps.

De­signed by a vet­eran of sci­ence fic­tion block­busters, the four-me­ter-tall, 1.5-ton Method-2 tow­ers over a room on the out­skirts of Seoul.

The hulk­ing hu­man-like cre­ation bears a strik­ing re­sem­blance to the military ro­bots star­ring in the movie Avatar.

It is claimed as a world first by its cre­ators at Hankook Mi­rae Tech­nol­ogy, a robotics com­pany, where about 30 en­gi­neers were hard at work con­duct­ing ini­tial tests on Tues­day after­noon.

“Our ro­bot is the world’s first manned bipedal ro­bot and is built to work in extreme haz­ardous ar­eas where hu­mans can­not go (un­pro­tected),” said com­pany chair­man Yang Jin-ho.

A pi­lot sit­ting in­side the ro­bot’s torso makes limb move­ments which are mim­icked by Method-2, whose metal arms each weigh 130 kilo­grams.

The ro­bot, more than twice the size of a tall man, is so heavy that it shakes the ground when it takes a step with a loud whirring of mo­tors.

Yang, who dreamed as a child of build­ing his own ro­bot, said he has in­vested $200 mil­lion in the project since 2014 to “bring to life what only seemed pos­si­ble in movies and car­toons”.

Build­ing the gi­ant ro­bot was a chal­lenge for the en­gi­neers — most of them in their 30s — as its un­prece­dented scale meant they had noth­ing to re­fer to, said one who de­clined to be named.

So far, it re­mains un­clear how the ro­bot will be used. Method-2 is seen more as a test-bed for var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies that will al­low the cre­ators to build any type and size of ro­bot in fu­ture.

“Ev­ery­thing we have been learn­ing so far on this ro­bot can be ap­plied to solve re­al­world prob­lems,” said de­signer Vi­taly Bul­garov on his Face­book page.

But the ro­bot, teth­ered by a power cable and still a bit wob­bly on its feet, is far from fin­ished. More work is needed on its bal­ance and power sys­tems, ac­cord­ing to its cre­ators.

“The ro­bot is one year old so it is tak­ing baby steps,” Yang said.

“Just like hu­mans, it will be able to move more freely in the next cou­ple of years.”

He said the ro­bot will be ready for sale by the end of 2017 at a price of around $8 mil­lion.

KIM HONG-JI / REUTERS

An en­gi­neer con­trols walk­ing ro­bot Method-2 in Gunpo, South Korea, on Tues­day.

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