Successful Development of a Robot with Appearance and Performance Similar to Humans
- For the entertainment industry -
A humanoid robot with a realistic head and the average figure of a young Japanese female has been developed.
Moves like a human and responds based on speech recognition.
Expected to be used in the entertainment industry and as a human simulator for evaluation of devices.
Shuuji Kajita (Leader) and others of the Humanoid Research Group, the Intelligent Systems Research Institute (Director: Shigeoki Hirai) of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) (President: Hiroyuki Yoshikawa) have developed a humanoid robot (a cybernetic human called "HRP-4C") which has the appearance and shape of a human being, can walk and move like one, and interacts with humans using speech recognition and so forth.
Standing 158 cm tall and weighing 43 kg (including the battery), with the joints and dimensions set to average values for young Japanese females, HRP-4C looks very human-like. Its walking motion and general movements were developed by motion-capturing those of humans and then mimicking them by applying the walking control technology developed in the Humanoid Robotics Project (HRP.) Interactions with humans have been enabled through speech recognition and so forth.
HRP-4C was developed as part of the User Centered Robot Open Architecture (UCROA), one of the projects under the AIST Industrial Transformation Research Initiative ("AIST Initiative"), a 3-year industry-academia joint project implemented by AIST since fiscal 2006 with intended applications in the entertainment industry including use at fashion shows.
HRP-4C will appear at one of the fashion shows to be held during the 8th Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo (JFW in Tokyo) which will open on March 23, 2009.
Newly developed "HRP-4C"
Social Background for Research
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is promoting the robot and new machinery innovation program to improve the productivity and quality of life through advances in robot technology. In July 2007, it drew up the Guidelines for Ensuring the Safety of Next-Generation Robots, and it currently holds meetings of the Robot Industry Policy Study Group to implement measures for using life-support robots in practice.
Humanoid robots are expected to be one of the final forms of the next-generation robots, and various institutions, including many private companies, are conducting R&D. However, applications to date have been limited to platforms for research and development, hobbies, and so forth, with the annual market worth only about 1 to 2 billion yen.
It is not easy to develop the next-generation robot industry, especially that of biped humanoid robots. The major barriers for industrialization include: (1) robots walking on two feet only have little commercial value, (2) the unit price is very high, and (3) if it falls, it may be seriously damaged.
One practical application for biped humanoid robots is the entertainment industry such as exhibitions and fashion shows, provided the robots can move very realistically like humans.
History of Research
AIST participated in the development of HRP-2 in the "Humanoid Robotics Project" (HRP) (fiscal 1998 – 2002) and HRP-3 in "Research and Development of Fundamental Technology for Humanoid Robots to Work in Practical Environments" (fiscal 2002 – 2006) supported by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). HRP-2 was used as a platform for R&D and showed the possibility of developing working humanoid robots. About 20 units have been put into use domestically and internationally so far. HRP-3 showed the potential for use in the so-called 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous and demanding), with equipment offering dust-proof and drip-proof performance as well as excellent moving functions. Furthermore, AIST jointly exhibited dinosaur-type biped robots with NEDO at the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, Japan and achieved 185 days of continuous operation, proving that bipedal walking technology is viable for the entertainment industry.
In addition, we developed a small humanoid robot, HRP-2m, for research and education in May 2006 through technology transfer to sell about 100 units from a venture company certified by AIST. We are also developing humanoid robots for care support or assisting rehabilitation exercise instructors.
The goal of the UCROA project of "AIST Initiative" is to show society that it is possible to develop robot products that meet the specifications required by users by combining reusable core technologies and developing prototype next-generation robots which can be used in practice by 2010 and for which the market is expected to be large. HRP-4C was developed as one of the three prototype robots being developed in the UCROA project.
Details of Research
HRP-4C was efficiently developed based on the User Centered Robot Open Architecture utilizing the fundamental robot technologies (RTs) including real-time Linux, RT middleware, robot simulator OpenHRP3, speech recognition and bipedal walking technology which have been studied and developed at AIST. HRP-4C is expected to be useful in the entertainment industry, for device evaluation for humans working as human simulators, and mechanical products to assist human movements by incorporating the following new functions and features:
(1) Looks like a human being with a height of 158 cm and body weight of 43 kg (including the battery), and the positions of the joints and dimensions are set to the average values for young Japanese females in the "Japanese Body Dimension Database 1997 – 98."
(2) To closely mimic the movements of humans, there are 3 degrees of freedom in the hip, 3 in the neck and 8 in the face.
(3) By adopting the walking control technology developed in HRP and motion-captured human movements for reference, the robot walks and moves very much like a human being.
(4) The speech recognition component of RT middleware, which is installed in the computer in the head section, recognizes human speech and the robot can respond in varisous ways.
Furthermore, HRP-4C inherits the technologies of HRP-2 and utilizes patented technology of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
Although current motion patterns (including walking) of HRP-4C are limited, they are quite similar to humans. It is expected to be used in the entertainment industry such as for exhibitions and fashion shows. Since its appearance and shape are human-like, it can be also used as a human simulator to evaluate devices for humans. Furthermore, the whole-body control technology used in this robot might be applied in devices that assist human life (power-assisted suits, etc.).
HRP-4C is expected to pave the way for the early practical application of humanoid robots by utilizing the key characteristic of humanoid robots, namely a human appearance.
The UCROA project of "AIST initiative" will be completed in fiscal 2008 (end of March 2009), and we plan to improve the general motion control technology. We will develop the technology for the contents creation to effectively use the robots in the entertainment industry. As a first step, HRP-4C is to appear at one of the fashion shows to be held in the 8th Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo (JFW in Tokyo) which will open on March 23, 2009.