Mechanical engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles have developed a full-sized humanoid robot that will soon play soccer in a competition. They named it ARTEMIS, or Advanced Robotic Technology for Enhanced Mobility and Improved Stability, in honor of the Greek goddess of hunting, wild animals, and chastity.
The robot will travel in July to Bordeaux, France, where it will participate in this year’s edition of RoboCup, an international competition where robots demonstrate their capabilities across a range of categories -- including soccer. The researchers have joked ARTEMIS could also stand for “A Robot That Exceeds Messi In Soccer” due to its surprising skills.
The team at the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory at UCLA (RoMeLa) designed ARTEMIS as a general-purpose humanoid robot, with a focus on bipedal locomotion over uneven terrain. It weighs 85 pounds, is four feet and eight inches tall, and can walk on rough and unstable surfaces, as well as run and jump. It can even remain steady when shoved.
They tested ARTEMIS in their laboratory and found it can walk 2.1 meters per second, not that different from the about 1.42 meters per second people tend to walk. This makes ARTEMIS the world’s fastest-walking humanoid robot, according to the researchers. They also believe it’s the first humanoid designed in an academic setting that can run, and only the third overall.
A very impressive robot
ARTEMIS’ main innovation is in its actuators. Actuators are electromechanical devices that convert energy into physical motion, they are essentially the 'muscles' of the robots. The researchers designed ARTEMIS’ actuators to function like biological muscles. They are springy and force-controlled, instead of the stiff and position-controlled actuators found in most robots.
“That is the key behind its excellent balance while walking on uneven terrain and its ability to run — getting both feet off the ground while in motion,” Dennis Hong, a UCLA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the director of RoMeLa, said in a media statement. “This is a first-of-its-kind robot.”
The actuators are electrically driven, instead of being controlled by hydraulics, which uses differences in fluid pressure to drive movement. This makes less noise and works more efficiently than robots with hydraulic actuators. ARTEMIS also has custom-designed sensors on each foot to keep balance, an orientation unit and cameras on its head to perceive its surroundings.
To get ARTEMIS ready for the RoboCup, the researchers have been testing the robot on walks around the university’s campus. Soon, they will also test ARTEMIS’ running and soccer-playing skills in the field. They will also evaluate how well it can move around uneven terrain and stairs, its capacity to fall and get back up and its ability to carry objects.
The researchers are regularly sharing information about the robot on their Twitter account, posting the routes for its campus walks. For those of us who are not in California to meet the robot, we’ll just have to wait to see how ARTEMIS does at the upcoming RoboCup. And if it can eventually be the robot that exceeds Messi in soccer, as the researchers joke.