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Introducing TORO, Germany's new humanoid robot

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July 1, 2013

The German Aerospace Center's new humanoid robot TORO looks like it means business (Photo:...

The German Aerospace Center's new humanoid robot TORO looks like it means business (Photo: DLR)

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Engineers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have proven once again that they know how to make a snazzy looking robot. Quietly announced to little fanfare, DLR's Robotics and Mechatronics Center recently put the finishing touches on its DLR-Biped, a pair of shiny blue legs that first stepped onto the scene in 2009. Those legs have now been upgraded to the status of a full-fledged humanoid robot, sporting an all-new upper body and a new name: the Torque Controlled Humanoid Robot, or TORO for short.

"Now that the robotic body is complete, we can test processes where the robot carries out sequences of movements with foresight and fluency," explains Project Manager Christian Ott. "If a person opens a heavy door, for example, they do so in a dynamic process; they know subconsciously which moves must be performed. Our robot should be able to do this as well. Another goal is to climb stairs. This involves TORO learning how to pull itself up on a handrail like a human."

DLR's Robotics and Mechatronics Center's other major humanoid robot, Rollin' Justin, first appeared in 2008. As you may have gathered from its name, that robot moves on wheels rather than legs. Its capabilities have been gradually improved over the years, leading some to think that Justin's upper body module would be merged with DLR-Biped's legs. Instead, the team built an upper body specifically for TORO with a new head, torso, light weight arms, and simplified hands.

The researchers at DLR want to push TORO beyond what Justin and other humanoid robots like ASIMO already do, including the ability to react autonomously and intelligently in a range of different circumstances.

The evolution of the DLR-Biped from 2009 to TORO, unveiled March 25th 2013 (Photo: DLR)
The evolution of the DLR-Biped from 2009 to TORO, unveiled March 25th 2013 (Photo: DLR)

The DLR-Biped wasn't the DLR's first foray into walking robots, nor is it Germany's only example (the Technical University of Munich has developed two full-sized examples in Johnnie and LOLA). However, it is among an elite group of new humanoids that, like Italy's COMAN, have torque-controlled joints. These give its limbs some elasticity where prior examples were rigid and unyielding, improving safety when interacting with people and increasing robustness to unforeseen external forces.

Compared to bipeds built in Japan and Korea, the DLR-Biped was already remarkable for its very small feet. "On the one hand, we wanted to make it more difficult by using a small footprint, but on the other, it enables the robot to climb over obstacles more easily," explains Ott. Now, the team will have to tweak the robot's walking gait to incorporate its upper body weight and arm movements. Plus, the addition of arms and hands opens a world of possibilities for the team to explore.

Perhaps because TORO was only just assembled, DLR has yet to publish any cool videos starring the new robot. However, you can see an earlier incarnation of TORO (halfway between the DLR-Biped and its current form) in the video below.

Source: DLR

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers.   All articles by Jason Falconer
5 Comments

You do realize of course, that these things are going to get better and better, and in a few decades, they are going to be so good and versatile, that they'll begin replacing people for manufacturing jobs. Presently, manufacturing robots are largely specifically built and designed for one or a few restricted capabilities. When a robot has the size and dexterity of a human, with subsequent improvements in software, processor speed, they will eventually be able to perform whatever we can.

Bob Vious
2nd July, 2013 @ 09:24 am PDT

@Bob I think we're still quite far off from having these sorts of robots replace workers and this one in particular would likely be used in space missions where sending people is either too dangerous or costly. As far as replacing workers, robots will also create new jobs just as computers did -they will need to be designed, programmed, and maintained in working condition.

Jason Falconer
2nd July, 2013 @ 02:43 pm PDT

Look at Petman or Atlas . I think the time frame is probably within 5 years not decades

rpunzell
3rd July, 2013 @ 10:13 am PDT

I think you're underestimating what they can do and overestimating what we can do. A robot with the dexterity referred to by Bob Vious will easily be capable of assembling and repairing its kind. Likewise, a design gets done once and then replicated endlessly, and a program gets written once and then copied endlessly. None of your arguments hold. All that stuff about 'repairing' is just 1950s thinking, clinging to the already-outdated notion that we humans are automatically best at everything.

The simple fact is that as long as using robots remains much cheaper than using humans, the job market is toast. The evidence of job loss to automation is all around us, and it is only the fact that robots are not _quite_ good enough yet which is protecting the jobs which remain.

We either have to protect jobs by increasing the cost to businesses of automating and mechanising, or we have to find a model for living which is not dependent on 'having a job'. Or else.

dalroth5
4th July, 2013 @ 01:01 am PDT

Robots have already been replacing people in manufacturing and many other jobs. Iā€™m not a Luddite, I am very excited about not having to work, but whilst robots can certainly not match people in all respects, they have already been replacing people in manufacturing at an every faster rate. There are not many people working in a modern car assembly plant and Foxconn is busy with a process to introduce a million robots to replace cheap Chinese teenagers in sweat shops assembling Apple products. It's also not only robots replacing people, AI is replacing Knowledge Workers too.

Oom Piet
19th August, 2013 @ 08:58 am PDT
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