Engineers at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Genoa, Italy, created an Iron Man-style robot called iCub designed to help search and rescue missions after a natural disaster. IIT’s iCub can reach areas that neither humans nor drones can get to in search of survivors.
Although iCub only stands 3.4 feet, its propulsion abilities and design is said to be comparable to the fictional Iron Man armor that the character Tony Stark in Marvel Comics wore. Robert Downey Jr. played the character of the billionaire philanthropist on the big screen.
Scientists have always tried to incorporate human cognition in robots to make them more human-like. They thought of ways to memorize, learn, understand, adapt, and reason, which are cognitive abilities that humans possess. If robots have these abilities, they could be useful in all kinds of environments or settings.
Through machine learning or artificial intelligence, they slowly make this dream come true. They are teaching robots to adapt to all kinds of environments and develop skills needed to help humans in different jobs.
According to National Geographic, scientists in Europe decided to build a humanoid robot in 2004 about the size of a small child. This project is called the RobotCub, and its flagship baby robot is the iCub. It measures about 3.4 feet (1 meter) tall and weighs 48.5 (22 kilograms), just about the size of a preschooler.
It also has eyes, eyelids, lips, arms, hands, legs, and waist that make it look like a human in armor. But unlike humans that use muscles to move, iCub uses its 53 motors. Also, it has sensors to help it understands its surroundings and body position. To help it see and hear, scientists have put two cameras and two microphones, while its smart skin helps it detect when someone is touching it.
Designing the iCub as a cognitive robot is a huge task that includes hundreds of researchers from different disciplines. Today, more than 25 laboratories worldwide have an iCub that they can study. The robot is seen to have learned how to crawl, sit, balance, control its arms and legs, reach for objects, memorize, and understand the use of objects.
Since iCub is an open-source platform, Italian engineers have found another use. They plan to use an iCub for search and rescue missions during a disaster.
Experts at IIT said that the field of robotics is still lagging in developing technologies that offer affordable solutions during natural disasters. They said that hundreds of natural disasters kill thousands of humans and affect millions of people worldwide, yet robotics still cannot offer an affordable solution to aid rescue missions during these unfortunate events.
MailOnline reported that aside from its ability to crawl in all fours, walk, and sit up, iCub can now manipulate objects. The 3.4-feet robot can handle fragmented pieces of building or rubble thanks to its hands designed to support sophisticated manipulation skills.
They released a video showing how human operators could remotely use software that controls the movements of iCub around an area ravaged by a disaster. Developers noted that control algorithms ensure iCub’s vertical take-off and landing, complete with orientation control ad flight information.