The EU project officially launched at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia
The official kick-off meeting for the European Project WALK-MAN (www.walk-man.eu) was hosted at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia. WALK-MAN aims to develop humanoid robots able to operate in real and unstructured environments resulted from natural and man-made disasters. The project has duration of 4 years and is coordinated by Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, involving also University of Pisa (Italy), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany and the l’Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Belgium.
WALK-MAN targets to enhance the capabilities of existing humanoid robots, such as the ones developed by some of the partners of the consortium (Coman, iCub and Armar), permitting them to operate in emergency situations, while assisting or replacing humans in civil damaged sites including buildings, such as factories, offices and houses. In such scenarios, the WALK-MAN robot will demonstrate human type locomotion, balance and manipulation capabilities. The robot will have the ability to walk and balance in unstructured workspaces, ability to walk over rough terrain, in and through cluttered spaces and among the crowd or crawling over a debris pile.
The project will also advance the manipulation capabilities of existing humanoids by developing new hand designs where robustness and adaptability are combined and that make robots able to grasp or manipulate objects and tools with human-like strength and dexterity.
“The most recent events showed us the necessity for reliable and effective robotic systems that can be deployed rapidly after the disaster, to assist in tasks too hazardous for humans to perform”, declares Nikos Tsagarakis, scientific coordinator of the project and research scientist at Advanced Robotics Department of Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia. “The project envisages the development of robots which will be our “co-workers” in the future society, a sort of artificial alter-ego able to execute tasks in dangerous environments”.
To reach these targets, researchers will focus on new high performance actuation systems, compliant body and hand designs taking advantage of recent developments in mechanical design and materials. This will permit to build less fragile and delicate robotic hardware with improved robustness and adaptability. The new hardware will be combined with whole-body locomotion and manipulation control, compliance regulation and enhanced multimodal perception. The physical interaction of the robot with the surrounding environment (handrails, walls, furniture etc) will be a key-point to enhance the robot performance and ability to maintain body balance and stable locomotion while producing the large manipulation forces of a scale needed in unstructured and disaster environments.
The concreteness of the project results will be validating through realistic scenarios, consulting also civil defence bodies.