Why It’s so Hard to Make Humanoid Robots

Robotics Technology
Why It’s so Hard to Make Humanoid Robots
dancing robot Mark Setrakian
Bridging the Uncanny Valley: Jump to 31:04 in the video below for some seriously creepy robot dancing action.
Featured at the 10th annual Maker Faire Bay Area.

Building humanoid robots is hard. It may be surprising, but humans have upwards of 21 senses to master, three of which — balance, proprioception (knowing where your body parts are in relation to each other), and kinesthetic sense (knowing how to move those body parts in relation to each other) — are integral for moving through the world around us. As much as we want to create robots in our own image, mastering the movement and awareness of the human body is surprisingly difficult for robots to achieve.

In this panel from Center Stage at Maker Faire Bay Area, RoboGames founder David Caulkins talked with roboticists Mark Setrakian, who has a background in Hollywood animatronics and building bipedal robot warriors for the show Robot Combat League, and Gui Cavalcanti, formerly of “Big Dog” creator Boston Dynamics and currently showing off mech brawler MegaBot, about the difficulties of creating robots that strive to mimic humans.

At times funny and insightful, topics included everything from moving away from the foundation of positional robotics to coping with and celebrating failure to addressing the uncanny valley of robot faces, not to mention nuggets of sage advice throughout:

“The one thing for anyone in this room that wants to become a roboticist: You have to get very, very, very good about accepting failure,” Caulkins said. “Because building a robot, no matter what kind of robot it is, whether it’s a wheeled robot, remote-controlled robot, a walking robot, an artificial intelligence robot, you’re going to fail a lot. So the people who become good roboticists are the people who can accept that and move on and fix it, and fix it again, and fix it again.”

The full talk clocks in at just under an hour, but it’s well worth a listen for anyone even passably interested in the state of robots today.

YouTube player

8 thoughts on “Why It’s so Hard to Make Humanoid Robots

  1. Justus Markov says:

    Design inference anyone? Did we “evolve” via an un-directed, random and purposeless set of laws or were we custom designed? It is interesting that the author of the article used the phrase “we want to create robots in our own image” – an echo of Genesis 1:26

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