I have long accepted that scientists would create a robot who could outsmart me in numerous intellectual tasks. After all, I already use Excel and Python to do my calculus and make my models. There are robots who can calculate far faster than I can. There are robots who can beat me at chess. There are robots who can outplay me in Jeopardy. This is all fine. Computers are math machines, after all.
But now they’re going to outshine me at the gym, too?
Engineer Masayuki Inaba and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo are developing Kengoro, a robot with a multi-jointed spine that gives him a wide range of motion and agility. Kengoro’s proportions, musculoskeletal system, and joint flexibility are all based on those of a typical teenage boy. In their paper, the researchers describe their creation as a “a human mimetic humanoid with an unprecedented degree of anatomical fidelity to the human musculoskeletal structure.”
Now, the University of Tokyo team isn’t out here trying to create the ultimate gym bro, or even a Terminator super soldier. Instead, they argue that Kengoro can be used to better understand processes in the human body. Its design “contrasts with the conventional engineering approach used in the design of existing humanoids,” emphasizing fidelity to the human body’s design rather than ambulatory efficiency. The team belives that Kengoro will help in the study of human systems “such as the principles of muscle control, the sensory nervous system that connects the brain and the body, learning in the brain, and the human walking motion … [Kengoro] can be used to provide new opportunities in science, for instance, to quantitatively analyze the internal data of a human body in movement.”
As you can see in the above video, Kengoro can perform sit-ups, upward dog, and push-ups, even if his push-up stance isn’t exactly regulation. (Chin to the ground or it doesn’t count, Kengoro!) While it’s not a particularly athletic sight, and while it’s not doing multiple reps with barbells just yet, the conclusion is clear.
The robot overlords are coming for us all. Even the iron-pumping gym rats.
(Via Science News; image: screengrab)
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