Just late last year, it was posited that the humanoid robot was poised to leap from a mere facsimile of human behavior to one that futurists suggest will walk like a human and possess self-awareness as well as a full range of high-tech computational spectrum analysis and capabilities and emotions.
Some predict that robots of all types could fully replace humans by 2045.
Artificial intelligence is now advancing to a point where a new type of brain can be offered to complement the relatively menial tasks of modern-day robotics, hinting at the next stage of machine evolution.
The current list of robots designed over the last few years to match human capability demonstrates what is described above could become a reality sooner than we think:
1. Atlas Unplugged
Google-owned Boston Dynamics developed the Atlas robot with the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency for its robotics challenge, designed to negotiate rough, outdoor terrain in a bipedal manner, while being able to climb using hands and feet as a human would.
The first version, released in July 2013, required an electrical and control tether to power and operate the robot.
The new generation of the robot, dubbed “Atlas unplugged” as it can operate on battery power and be controlled wirelessly, has been developed for the Darpa Robotics Challenge finals, which are set to take place in June.
The latest version of Atlas is slightly taller and heavier than before, standing 6ft 2in (1.88m) high and weighing 156.4kg (345lb).
According to its manufacturer, Google’s Boston Dynamics division, 75% of the humanoid machine is new – only its lower legs and feet remain unchanged.
2. ASIMO And Honda P-Series
ASIMO is the 11th in a line of walking robots developed by Honda, called the P-Series. Unveiled in 2000, ASIMO could walk and run like a human, which was an amazing feat.
ASIMO had a significant upgrade in 2005, that allowed him to run twice as fast (6 km/hr or 4.3mph), interact with humans, and perform basic tasks like holding a platter and serving food.
The current ASIMO models number about 100 worldwide, stand 1.28 m tall and weight about 55 kg.
ASIMO, with his space-suit looking appearance, is cheerful and endearing. He has paved the way for many subsequent walking, human-like robots, but still holds his own as an advanced and powerful robot.
ASIMO is a great boon to Honda’s global branding, and helps the company’s appearance of innovation and technology. ASIMO has also appeared in commercials for Honda and makes many celebrity appearances. ASIMO makes this list because of his winsome appearance, world-wide recognition, and advanced technology.
iCub was created by the RobotCub Consortium, of several European universities. The name is a partial acronym, cub standing for Cognitive Universal Body.
The motivation behind the strongly humanoid design is the embodied cognition hypothesis, that human-like manipulation plays a vital role in the development of human cognition.
A baby learns many cognitive skills by interacting with its environment and other humans using its limbs and senses, and consequently its internal model of the world is largely determined by the form of the human body.
The robot was designed to test this hypothesis by allowing cognitive learning scenarios to be acted out by an accurate reproduction of the perceptual system and articulation of a small child so that it could interact with the world in the same way that such a child does.
Poppy is the latest humanoid robot and presents the first of its kind: Poppy was created by a 3D printer.
A group of French researchers were able to cut costs by a third utilising the latest 3D tech. Poppy’s creators have focused on a biologically inspired walking motion that they hope will allow for better human-to-robot interaction.
It has an articulated spine with five motors – almost unheard of in robots of this size.
The spine not only allows Poppy to move more naturally, but helps to balance the robot by adjusting its posture.
The added flexibility also helps when physically interacting with the robot, such as guiding it by its hands, which is currently required to help the robot walk.You can see the incredibly human-like, heel-toe motion in the video below.
Romeo seeks to become the leader in the areas of robotic care giving and personal assistance with a more emotional element.
Romeo builds off of a smaller humanoid robot called NAO that generated more than 5,000 sales or rentals worldwide.
The robot has the size of a child of eight years (1.40 m) and weighs a little more (40 kilos).
To be as light as possible, its body is made of carbon fibre and rubber, and was designed to avoid the risk of injury to the person that will attend.
Today, Romeo can walk, see the three-dimensional environment, hear and speak.
The timeline for testing the robot in real-world conditions is projected for 2016, with the final objective of being able to use it in a retirement home in the 2017 or 2019.
Funded in part by the French government and the European Commission, the Romeo project budget totals 37 million Euros over the period from 2009-2016.
Petman is an anthropomorphic robot designed for testing chemical protection clothing. Natural agile movement is essential for Petman to simulate how a soldier stresses protective clothing under realistic conditions.
Unlike previous suit testers that had a limited repertoire of motion and had to be supported mechanically, Petman balances itself and moves freely; walking, bending and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics during exposure to chemical warfare agents.
Petman also simulates human physiology within the protective suit by controlling temperature, humidity and sweating, all to provide realistic test conditions.
The Petman system was delivered to the user’s test facility where it is going through validation experiments.
NAO is a 58-cm tall humanoid robot and was created to be a friendly companion around the house. Several versions of the robot have been released since 2008.
The most known NAO is the Academics Edition which was developed for universities and laboratories for research and education purposes.
It was released to institutions in 2008, and was made publicly available by 2011. More recent upgrades to the Nao platform include the 2011 Nao Next Gen and the 2014 Nao Evolution.
NAO robots have been used for research and education purposes in numerous academic institutions worldwide. As of 2015, over 5,000 Nao units are in use in 50+ countries.
RoboThespian is a life sized humanoid robot designed for human interaction in a public environment. It is fully interactive, multilingual, and user-friendly, making it a perfect device with which to communicate and entertain.
Now in its third generation, with more than six years of continuous development, RoboThespian is a tried-and-tested platform, trusted by national science centres, visitor attractions, commercial users and academic research institutions around the world.
It comes with standard content, like greetings and impressions, to which you can add your own recorded sequences or bespoke content.
With a web based interface files controlling movement, sound and video can be uploaded.
Actroid-SIT can function autonomously, talking and gesturing while interacting with people.
Researchers have recently demonstrated how improvements to Actroid’s behavior can make it look smarter and more expressive than your average Android.
She knows sign language, such as “point” or “swing”, that automatically adapts to the interlocutor’s position.
10. Robotic Pole Dancers – Lexy And Tess
At the CeBIT expo in Hanover, German software developer Tobit assembled a booth that features two pole-dancing robots, egged on by a fellow robot DJ with a megaphone for a head.
The two ladybots move and twist in time to the music, though the actual performance is surprisingly tame.
According to the BBC, you can pick up a bot for $39,500.