A Different Approach to Robot Mobility

One of the biggest challenges for robots is mobility. Industrial robots can do a lot of things fast, efficiently, and economically, but when it comes to moving around a warehouse or factory — let alone more challenging environments — robots are likely to fall down, be unable to open the doors, and fail to handle obstacles like stairs or the edge of a rug.

Many researchers are working on robot gait and balance, looking at various animals for inspiration and struggling to get their 6-figure creations to maneuver as well as a human two year old.

But Disney is taking a different approach.

Imagineers to the rescue!

Instead of putting all their eggs into the basket or working toward better mobility for their robots, Disney is working on robots that don’t break when they fall down. Calling their new range of robots the Indestructibles, Disney gave one her debut at SXSW in Austin, Texas, last month.

In their presentation they focused on the second string to the bow: in addition to being tong enough to sustain falls and collisions, the new robots also show enough personality that nearby humans can accept their imperfections. It’s all part of their charm.

“In conventional robotics, physics is the final judge of what works best,” explained Morgan Pope at IEEE. “When the goal is creating a character, human hearts and minds are the final judge, instead.”

Industrial settings

Could this approach work in an industrial setting? It’s possible. “By shifting our emphasis toward the way we reach our goal—rather than just the end result,” says Pope, “we’ve opened up what feels like a world of possibilities for dynamic and expressive robots.”

Research has shown that people will engage on an emotional level with industrial machinery under the right circumstances. But it might also be that making sure a robot can survive a fall and giving it the power to get back up could mitigate the problems caused by robots’ lack of grace in motion.

Whatever kind of robots or automated machinery you have on hand, you need excellent motion control systems. If yours come from Rexroth, we can help with factory repair and reman. Call (479) 422-0390 for immediate assistance.

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