Robot Bodies Needed Before Robot Minds
Toyota debuts healthcare ‘robots’ (but they do jump)
November 21, 2011Posted by on
The Verge has a video of a robot spider and snake battling it out. Hmmmm, I think Survival Research Labs did this a decade ago – and they still are! Newbies…sheesh.
Toyota just debuted some new kinds of robots. They are not autonomous, so don’t fit most people’s definition of robot. On the other hand, they attach to humans, and they therefore, indirectly, can jump.
What Toyota has developed is a walk-assist for the disabled and the elderly. The two-legged systems allow people who would have to be in a wheelchair to walk.
Note there’s no comment about how long the walk goes. For the disabled, even a few minutes of charge might be liberating. But this isn’t a power exoskeleton from the comic books.
The reason? We can’t supply enough energy to these systems, any more than we can make useful humanoid robots that can go for more than a couple of minutes on one charge. It’s the batteries. The energy density of our best battery is 1/40 of gasoline (which is the same reason that electric cars are still barely practical). There is research into “ultracapacitators”, but it’s just that – research. While we have the “in the future…” drumbeat out of the tech blogs, I wonder.
After all, by now our laptops were supposed to be powered by fuel cells – and not need charging for weeks. They were supposed to run on grain alcohol. Well, well….
But for Japan, with a rapidly aging population and a well-ordered society (which means I can imagine charging stations every few hundred feet with battery swaps in large cities) it is a step ahead.
It’s also a step ahead, in the sense that work on technology that could enable nimble robots will continue.