Meet the humanoids
Sophia: The social robot
In October, Sophia was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship at an investment summit in Riyadh. Sophia runs on Artificial Intelligence, analyses visual data and uses facial recognition.
David Hanson, the creator of this social robot, and founder and chief executive officer of Hanson Robotics Ltd, says Sophia can come up with conversational as well as emotional responses—a feat she displayed while appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earlier this year. Sophia even defeated Fallon in a game of rock-paper-scissors, robot style.
Activated around two years ago, Sophia has been designed to resemble actor Audrey Hepburn. According to an official statement, Sophia can simulate a range of facial expressions, track and recognize faces, look people in the eye, and hold conversations. Many of these features are powered by the company’s AI software, which allows Sophia and other robots to maintain eye contact with a subject and understand speech.
The secret behind Sophia’s facial features and expressions is an elastic form of rubber called Frubber. According to the Hanson Robotics website, this patented material is a proprietary nanotech skin that mimics real human skin and muscle arrangement.
Tech specs: Artificial Intelligence, facial recognition, nanotech skin
Possible applications: Entertainment animatronics, interaction with humans, and research purposes
Atlas: The dynamic robot
Heard of a robot that performs a perfect backflip? The humanoid robot Atlas not only pulls this off well but also maintains its balance if knocked down.
US engineering firm Boston Dynamics’ creation could one day be deployed for search and rescue. Atlas has a height of 1.5m and weighs around 75kg.
With its 28 mechanical joints and hydraulic movements, Atlas’ control system is designed to coordinate the motions of the arms, torso and legs for accurate movement. Any risk of damage in rough terrain is neutralized by Atlas’ 3D-printed hardware that not only makes it light and compact, but also increases its strength-to-weight ratio.
The most interesting feature is the technology it uses to navigate—a combination of LiDAR (light imaging, detection and ranging or, simply, light and radar) and stereo vision to survey the objects around. This remote-sensing technology uses light/lasers to measure the range or distance from an object (the robot, in this case). The aim is to measure the time the light takes to return to its source, with which the robot can create a 3D representation of a subject or the area it is in.
Tech specs: Hydraulic actuation, 3D-printed hardware, LiDAR and stereo vision
Possible applications: Emergency services in search and rescue situations