Dozens of famous sci-fi franchises. , from Blade Runner to the Terminator, center around the story of realistic, humanoid robots so carefully constructed that they are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Of course, we can’t build these machines yet — modern robots can do tricks and clean our floors. but they don’t even look like humans.

However, we’ve started to make progress, and some of the early attempts at god-honest androids are pretty impressive…and just a little scary.

Below we take a look at some of the most impressive androids ever made. It’s nearly impossible to create an Android demo that doesn’t feel like the opening of a robot apocalypse movie, so be careful: the future is coming and it’s weirder than ever.


It is impossible to make a list of impressive androids without mentioning ASIMO, the first android to capture the human imagination and the first to introduce the idea of ​​practical humanoid robots into the popular mind. ASIMO, whose name means «Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility,» is a three-foot robot that looks like a cross between a space suit and an iPod.

In terms of hardware, the platform has multiple sensors, an operating time of one hour to several hours, and 57 degrees of freedom (including thirteen in each arm). ASIMO can climb and descend stairs, lift and manipulate objects, and was the first robot to demonstrate the ability to run (albeit at a calm, unhurried speed of 3.7 miles per hour).

On the software side, ASIMO offers a lot of tricks, including the ability to respond to voice commands, turn to look at noises, identify simple hand gestures, perform speech synthesis, and display your environment for navigation.

So why is ASIMO at the bottom of this list? In short, ASIMO is not a particularly reliable robot. Watch this video:

The modern version of ASIMO has gone through many iterations, but is ultimately an incremental improvement over the original ASIMO, one of the first humanoid robots to ever exist. Thus, ASIMO is limited by the design paradigms available at the time, none of which can handle the unexpected gracefully (in this demo, the stairs were higher than ASIMO was programmed to expect).

ASIMO fails when unexpected variables are introduced, which is why you tend to see the robot in very carefully structured public demos. ASIMO uses a conservative walking style that minimizes the degree to which its center of gravity is not directly over its feet, an approach that has led to ASIMO’s characteristic bent-knee duck. This, while easy to implement on flat ground, does not work well on uneven terrain and is not very fast, efficient, or looks natural.


PETMAN (MANnequin Protection Ensemble Testing) is a product of Boston Dynamics, a former DARPA contractor that what was recently bought by Google, and who you may know from the famous BigDog video. PETMAN was designed to test suits for the military, making it probably one of the best examples of «creep» in human history. It takes a special type of government contractor to go from suit testing to confrontation and make the decision to build the Terminator. In Boston Dynamics’ own words:

“PETMAN is an anthropomorphic robot designed to test chemical protective clothing. Natural agile movement is important for PETMAN to mimic how a soldier stresses protective clothing in real-life situations. Unlike previous suit testers, which had a limited movement repertoire and had to be supported mechanically, PETMAN balances itself and moves freely; walking, bending and performing a variety of gymnastic exercises that emphasize the suit during exposure to chemical warfare agents.

PETMAN is impressive in many ways. While the machine lacks many of ASIMO’s features (such as arms, eyesight, and skin), it has impressive legs and extraordinary balance that allows it to walk in a very human way over rough terrain. The human step is essentially a series of controlled falls, and PETMAN mimics it admirably.

As a consequence of this, PETMAN can walk and run a little faster than ASIMO and is able to travel across various terrains. PETMAN is also pneumatically propelled, meaning it can be powered by a gas engine and can operate autonomously for longer periods of time than conventional batteries.

Before we continue, take a moment to watch the same video with the sounds of the BeeGees. I’m not sure why this is so funny, but it is.

3. NAO

NAO is a robot based on the same philosophy as ASIMO: conservative walking, precise control and many degrees of freedom. The difference is that NAO is much smaller and designed for an open, relatively inexpensive robotic platform. In other words, if you have $8,000 for a hobby, you can buy it right now.

NAO has a fairly wide range of sensors, dexterous hands and a bit of maneuverability. Also, since anyone can write applications that run on NAO (which can be triggered by combinations of voice commands and visual data), the robot’s software gets smarter over time. NAO is the official venue for the Robocoop Football competition. In case you’re wondering, robots aren’t particularly good at football.

NAO bots have been used for a variety of purposes, including teaching social skills to autistic children and providing an educational platform for teaching robotics. But, if you don’t care, you can also make them dance to «Gangnam Style» and «Thriller».

2 Martin Kelly Head

ASIMO, NAO and PETMAN are very impressive, but none of these robots look like people. ASIMO and NAO have the wrong size and proportions. PETMAN looks like a T-800 running shoe. He has a warning light for his head, for God’s sake! None of them have anything like a face. And not in vain! A quick trip through Youtube will show the dangers of trying to create believable human faces — examples range from just dead eyes and upsets to genuine nightmarish material.

These past failures make the example of Martin Kelly much more impressive. The eyes appear alive and the face naturally transitions into many convincing expressions. It looks like the robot knows something we don’t. This is all the more impressive due to the relatively simple robotic setup that shapes the face. If you couldn’t see the table through the back of his open mouth, he would almost appear to be alive.

As it turns out, creating and animating a believable human face is more a matter of artistic limitations than technological ones, and as a result, switching artists with technical skill to a problem works much better than just letting robotics students mess around. with tires and motors in the laboratory, which, apparently, was the reason for the appearance of a strange girl from the valley.

1. Atlas

Following the success of PETMAN, Boston Dynamics continued to develop the core technology into a complete robotics platform. The result is ATLAS, a complex robot capable of moving across different terrains and environments. The ATLAS is designed for search and rescue and has articulated arms, a full array of sensors (including laser rangefinders and stereo cameras) and can balance very effectively.

ATLAS, however, looks a little less human than PETMAN due to the increased complexity of the equipment required to operate. In fact, something like an insect in his bulging head and unblinking glassy eyes. However, ATLAS is incredibly impressive mechanically.

The ATLAS premier had one AI researcher, Gary Bradsky, comment:

“People love the wizards in Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, but this is real. […] New species appear, Robo sapiens »

DARPA official, Jill Pratt, was more pragmatic about the technology’s potential.

“Two weeks ago, 19 brave firefighters lost their lives. […] Many of us who are in the field of robotics see these developments on the news and the thing that touches us very deeply is the only feeling we can do better? With all this technology that we’re working on, can’t we apply this technology to be more successful? I think the answer is yes.

After being bought out by Google, ATLAS is now owned by Google, which may eventually implement the technology for this kind of application. However, for now, you can still watch the Rocky-themed robot training montage.

Robots of tomorrow

Our ability to create robots and intelligent software is still very primitive in many ways. Robotics is literally in its infancy: the hardware is just learning to walk properly and motor control properly, while the software is finally starting to read at the elementary school level.

There is a long way to go before machines can meet and surpass human capabilities. However, progress is deceptively fast, and chances are that over the course of your lifetime you will continue to be amazed at the leaps and bounds that machines make. The future of robotics will be interesting and I, for one, am looking forward to it.

What is your favorite advanced humanoid robotics project? Do you think robots will start performing more complex human tasks in the near future? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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