European robot rescue WALK-MAN has lost 31 kg and has become 40% stronger
WALK-MAN. Photo: IIT / WALK-MAN Project
For the past few years, engineers from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) have been working on upgrading the WALK-MAN robot(Whole-body Adaptive Locomotion and Manipulation). This humanoid type of machine is similar to the famous Atlas robotfrom Boston Dynamics. But it was created for more serious cases than the movement of goods in a warehouse - to help people in technological accidents, to dismantle debris and extinguish fires. She first appeared before the public in June 2015 at the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
The work is coordinated by a group from IIT, but in fact scientists and engineers from a variety of research organizations and universities in Europe are taking part in it. Thanks to the financing of the European Commission, WALK-MAN has become a truly international project: everyone performs his own section and is responsible for a specific module or subsystem: from software simulators to servo drives and manipulators.
The WALK-MAN project has been underway for five years. Now the engineers conducted a major upgrade of the robot, after which it was time for tests and demonstrations.
The first model WALK-MAN looked more cumbersome and coarse than a modern copy. But even then it was a powerful machine.
The first model is WALK-MAN. Photo: IIT
The developers then noted that all components are 100% new equipment. Among its main features is the use of special powerful engines capable of delivering several kilowatts of peak power to each hinge. The design of the robot is designed to reduce weight and improve the dynamic characteristics of the robot, a large number of sensors monitor the load, temperature, condition of mechanisms and electronics.
The new version has been significantly upgraded. The robot received a completely new case of aluminum and magnesium alloys and titanium. As a result, it was possible to lose weight from 133 kg to 102 kg.
Due to the reduction in weight, especially above the belt, the robot has significantly increased in dynamics, sharpness of movements, ability to maintain balance - all of these are very important characteristics if it is necessary to act at the site of a natural disaster, disaster or accident where it is planned to use it. New power drives are installed in the upper part of the case and even with a smaller battery of 1 kWh the robot is able to work autonomously for about two hours.
The dimensions of the robot have decreased both in width and in thickness, so that it will be easier for him to pass through narrow openings in the middle of debris and along corridors. Together with engineers from the University of Pisa, new biomorphic “hands” were developed - manipulators with 19 degrees of freedom, which reliably capture a wide variety of subjects. Strength is enough to carry a load of 10 kg for more than 10 minutes (the previous model lifted 7 kg).
As part of a preliminary demonstration, WALK-MAN participated in a rescue simulation at an industrial plant damaged by an earthquake where there are gas leaks and a fire. That is, in conditions that are too dangerous for human work - it is in such situations that the use of robots is preferable. No matter how much a car costs, it will always be cheaper than human life.
The video shows how the robot moves through the building, turns the valve, unlocks the door and turns on the fire extinguisher. Approximately 80% of the time, the robot is under the control of the operator: the autopilot is responsible only for certain local functions, such as balance retention, certain body movements, and so on.
The developers have noted a significant improvement in software and computer power. Now WALK-MAN is able to use reliable control modules of increased complexity in real time.
Note that the first version of the robot at the DRC 2015 competition was not very successful and overcame only 2 of 8 obstacles. Now many problems have been resolved: WALK-MAN has become lighter and stronger, so that it is now better suited to work in the human environment, it moves faster and more stably, consumes less energy and performs more complex coordinated movements. The main tasks that confront designers in the near future are a gradual increase in autonomy and higher speed of work, including faster walking. As shown in the video, now WALK-MAN, despite its name, still moves very slowly.