TOKYO Sony Corp. has developed an integrated walking, running, and jumping motion control technology that enables its humanoid robot "Qrio" to smoothly combine conventional walking movement with new running and jumping motions.
"In the past, when a robot walked, it was a big news. Now researchers are challenging to make a robot run. Sony demonstrated Qrio, a humanoid robot, running today," said Toshitada Doi, executive vice president of Sony and president of Sony's intelligent dynamics laboratories.
Attempts to make robots run and jump date back to hopping robots MIT in 1980s. Sony also developed a running Aibo in 2001. But Sony said Qrio could be the first autonomous robot with an internal control system and power supply that runs, jumps and walks.
Running is defined by robot designers as "the loss of contact," like speed walkers. Qrio stays aloft for about 40 milliseconds when jumping and for about 20 milliseconds when running. In a demonstration, it ran 14 meters per second. To make Qrio run, Sony engineers developed new motion control software and improved hardware with an enhanced actuator and processor.
To make a robot walk, the control theory called ZMP ((Zero Moment Point) control is widely used. The theory calculates the motion pattern that satisfies the dynamics balance between either one or both feet of robot on the floor, and between robot feet and the opposing force produced at the contact point.
To make Qrio run, Sony added a control that takes the sum of all movement around the robot's center of gravity while in the air. To make Qrio smoothly change from walking to running and jumping, Sony developed integrated movement control technology that generates motion patterns that satisfy both ZMP-based walking control and jumping/running movement control.
Together with this new control technology, Sony engineers raised the output torque of its intelligent servo actuator by 20-30 percent compared to that used for the walking version.
To calculate motion control in real time, three 64-bit MIPS processors were replaced with a newer version. Details of tne newer version were not disclosed.
Development of a running algorithm was completed about two years ago, and experiments using Qrio began about one year ago, said Kenichiro Nagasaka, assistant manager of Sony Entertainment Robot Co.
Sony executives were tight-lipped about marketing plans during a recent demonstration. Satoshi Amagai, president of Sony Entertainment Robot Company, said "to take the lead of robot technology development, we've been making Qrio evolve without considering the cost. Introduction to the market is still one of possibilities in the future."
Some robot hardware producers are selling humanoid robots to researchers. Though Qrio is an attractive platform for researchers, demand is expected to be small. Sony's strategy appears to be similar to the one used for Aibo, meaning it would offer Qrio sometime in the future as an entertainment robot. "Unless we produce it in volume, the cost does not come down," said Doi.