Robotic Renaissance: Past, Present, and Future  of Bio Based Robotics

  Robofest 2013  

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Humanoids Human Based Robots


Animal Based Robots

A robot with a body shape resembling that of the human body.
Humanoid robots generally have a torso, a head, two arms, and two legs.
Kinetics of humanoid robots involves legged locomotion or biped gait (i.e., walking).
Robotic walking is a surprisingly difficult process, involving a complex set of synchronized and balanced movements (part of field of study termed “Kinematics”).

~  PAST ~

Leonardo Da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance Man, built the first humanoid robot circa 1495, a knight automaton powered by pulleys and gears. It could move its jaw, sit down, and walk. Working models have been created of the knight (which was lost or destroyed).

Inner workings of robot knight
Page from Da Vinci’s notebook with mechanical schematics
Exterior of robot knight


Humanoid robots of today can look and move virtually identically to humans. Theoretically, they can perform any job using tools or operating equipment and vehicles designed for the human form, provided the complex software can be developed. Human-like robots are increasingly important for social interaction and entertainment purposes.

  1. Assistance (care of sick or elderly)
  2. Routine jobs (receptionists, waiters, couriers, cleaners)
  3. Dirty or dangerous jobs (military, search and rescue, toxic clean-up)
  4. Distant space exploration missions
  5. Speaking, singing, dancing, playing, communicating….

Disney’s Animatronic Robot
Can juggle balls and play
catch with humans

Japan’s HRP-4C
First humanoid robot with human-like features, able to sing and dance
Alberan Robotics’ NAO
First complex humanoid robot made available to public

Humanoid robots of today can simulate a range of human kinetics—

  • Walking (on flat surfaces and down a slope)
  • Running
  • Playing soccer
  • Dancing
  • Jumping
  • Falling and getting back up
  • Climbing stairs and over obstacles

Although wheeled robots are energy efficient and simple to control, bipedal locomotion may be more appropriate for traversing rough terrain, moving in human environments, and benefiting biomechanics. However, coordinating a large number of robot joints is difficult (for example, to climb stairs). Autonomous robot locomotion is another major technological obstacle for humanoids. These limitations still make it problematic for humanoids to negotiate uneven terrain.


In the NXT robot, motors are responsible for motion. Alpha Rex utilizes one motor for each foot, which may be programmed to function out of phase to produce bipedal locomotion. Programming must also focus on path planning and avoiding collision with obstacles (using sensors to gather data and control reactions).


Households may have a humanoid robot to perform most tasks or provide companionship. Intelligent robots will be able to sense their environments, make decisions, and learn. The robot “brain” may come to execute 100 trillion instructions per second, rivaling human intelligence. Businesses will come to rely more and more on robots, leading to a “Robotic Revolution” in industry, manufacturing, and agriculture. Military operations may become fully robotic, and the first colonists in space may be robots!

  1. Robotic babies, friends, and pets—with personality!

  1. Robotic teachers and coaches

  1. First responder robots

Robotic kinetics will be improved by ongoing advances in robotic musculoskeletal systems. A major goal is developing the capabilities for robots to autonomously decide how, when, and where to move. Eventually, robots may be capable of any human motor feat, including the ability to assess any obstacle and devise techniques to surmount it!