Avatar-style manned ro­bot takes baby steps

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

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-me­ter­tall, 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 South Korean ro­bot­ics com­pany, where about 30 en­gi­neers were hard at work con­duct­ing ini­tial tests 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 kg. 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 242 bil­lion won ($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 mid and late 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 test­bed for var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies that will al­low the cre­ators to build any type and size of ro­bot in fu­ture.

While its enor­mous size has grabbed media at­ten­tion, the cre­ators of Method2 say the project’s core achieve­ment is the tech­nol­ogy they de­vel­oped and en­hanced along the way. “Ev­ery­thing we have been learn­ing so far on this ro­bot can be ap­plied to solve real-world prob­lems,” said de­signer Vi­taly Bul­garov on his Face­book page. He has pre­vi­ously worked on film se­ries such as Trans­form­ers, Robocop and Ter­mi­na­tor.

Yang said they have al­ready re­ceived in­quiries from in­dus­tries rang­ing from man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion to en­ter­tain­ment. There have even been ques­tions about its pos­si­ble de­ploy­ment

along the heav­ily for­ti­fied De­mil­i­ta­rized Zone with North Korea. 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 10 bil­lion won ($8.3 mil­lion). — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.