Indian MSU professor to create 'service robots'

By SiliconIndia   |   Monday, 27 July 2009, 07:12 Hrs   |    1 Comments
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Indian MSU professor to create 'service robots'
Michigan: Ranjan Mukherjee, an Indian Professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan State University will make 'service robots' a reality soon. Mukherjee has received $247,000 in federal stimulus money to develop technology that will allow two legged robots to move more like humans, reports Lansing State Journal.

The robots will be able to climb stairs, walk on uneven ground, maybe even jump and perform tasks that the most advanced robots can't do very well. "It's very far from reality," said Mukherjee. "Human beings are very complex and making robots that are like human beings, is not easy."

Mukherjee, who will be assisted by Louis Flynn, a doctoral student, believes that when service robots do become a reality they will have to be able to operate in environment designed for humans. "Most of the people working on bipeds (robots with two legs), design them to walk on a flat surface," Mukherjee said. "Very few bipeds can climb stairs. We take that as the first challenge. Eventually, we would like to get to the point where it can handle undulated surfaces and uneven surfaces."

Most robots have motors that drive their movement. However, robots generally can't apply impulsive forces: short, strong bursts of power that could allow them to make quick corrections when their balance shifts or when they encounter unexpected changes in terrain. The challenge for Mukherjee and for Louis Flynn will be to develop control systems that make the application of such short bursts workable and that allow robots to sense when they are needed.

Mukherjee has said that he intends to use conventional motors since more exotic technology would turn out to be costlier. He believes that he can get the effect he wants by altering the power electronics that drive them. "We envision such robots will be used as service robots in the years to come," he said. "A good example would be where biped robots are used to aid the elderly, who are perhaps living by themselves at home."

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