Dr.Tapas Badal

Humanoid robot development is a multidisciplinary branch associated not only with science and engineering but also social, ethical and legal domains, writes Tapas Badal

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It is human nature to be compassionate and emotional. If we were asked to select a robot as our companion, we would prefer them to have some similarity with humans.

A humanoid robot is one that has some similarity with humans in appearance, movement and decision making capabilities. These robots are equipped with sensors to detect environmental qualities and actuators for movement.

Such robots can be a favourable alternative to humans in emergencies. For instance, they can interact with school children in classrooms, and in hospitals, they can interact with patients and differently abled children.

Healthcare humanoid robots are helping doctors and patients by improving medical conditions or assisting them while giving treatment. The primary responsibility of a humanoid robot is to work as a surgical assistant and they can also be used as an assistive device to reduce distress.

In the sphere of education, they can make learning more exciting. The appearance of robots increases the user’s responses during interactions. Promising results have been observed in student participation, creativity, curiosity, and knowledge recall rate where a humanoid robot is involved. Although humanoid robots are in their developmental phase, yet their influence in manufacturing, military and research are well established. Furthermore, humanoids can be deployed in applications such as nuclear power plant, fire disaster and space station repair.

Currently, Sophia and Altas are the two most advanced robots. Sophia is a social humanoid robot. Altas can do backflip and has been developed by Google owned Boston Dynamics and US Defence Advanced Research Project Agency. There are others too, like NAO, a 58 cm tall humanoid robot developed to be a friendly companion. For researchers, there is ample room for innovation in fields related to humanoid robotics, including artificial intelligence, computer vision, neuroscience, speech recognition etc. Humanoid robot development is a multidisciplinary branch that is not only associated with science and engineering disciplines but also connected to social, legal, and ethical domains.

At Bennett University (BU), we are working with NAO and trying to incorporate intelligence in its behaviour towards humans in a random environment. He is also being made to play soccer with inputs provided to locate and kick the ball towards the goal.

Working with the humanoid robots is like nurturing babies. It interesting to work with them, but frustrating to make them learn. They fail to recognise you; they misunderstand the conversation; they fall during the walk. But in future, humanoid robots will evolve and their capabilities will surprise us.

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