Who’s the Robot With Unusually Strong Actuators? SCHAFT! Can You Dig It?

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Anyone worried about the inevitable robot uprising can take solace in knowing that humanoid robots are not particularly strong. That’s because the electric motors commonly used to build them are pretty limited due to size. That solace is only temporary though, because scientists are working on making those robots stronger so that we can all one day die by their metal hands. Take the SCHAFT Inc. robot for example. Its new prototype features actuators that could make robots much stronger.

SCHAFT Inc. is an off-shoot of the University of Tokyo’s Jouhou System Kougaku (JSK) Laboratory, which was the first lab to develop the actuator technology. JSK had it in their “Urata Leg” design as early as last year, but SCHAFT is the first humanoid robot to use them.

The technology used to drive the Urata Leg, SCHAFT, and now my nightmares works by replacing traditional servos with motor systems that have higher output, are capacitor-powered, and water-cooled. Apart from the added strength the robot gets, by pairing the new motors with advanced algorithms to control its bipedal movement, it can now withstand being shoved or kicked and remain upright.

It may seem like SCHAFT Inc. is just trying to make their robot harder to kill, but they’re really preparing it for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, where it will face off against other robots in mortal combat tasks and conditions meant to simulate first-responders in hazardous situations.

SCHAFT’s arms will soon be available as a stand alone item, but the technology whereby you can replace your own arms with super-strong robot arms is still probably a few years away.

(via IEEE Spectrum, image via SCHAFT Inc.)

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Glen Tickle
Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.