Mar 152006
 
RI-MAN Humanoid Robot

source: AFP/JIJI PRESS

OK, the truth is that right now the RI-MAN humanoid robot can only carry your grandma if she weighs less than 26 pounds, and if she does, she’s got bigger problems than not being able to walk. (That’s a doll in the pic.) But the goal of RI-MAN’s creators is for him to be able to bear loads of up to 155 pounds within the next 5 years, a weight that still seems borderline for American grandmas but probably a safe limit for grandma’s in RI-MAN’s home country, Japan.

With a birth rate that has been steadily declining and a population that lives longer on average than most other countries, Japan has been increasingly focused on developing robots for assisting its growing elderly population. While other robots have been created to help around the house, and exoskeletons have been created to assist in mobility, the RI-MAN is the first humanoid I’ve seen with the lofty goal of being able to pick up and physically carry a human being.

RI-MAN stands roughly 5 feet tall, weighs 220 pounds, and is covered with a soft silicone skin. He has a complex sensor system that can monitor the weight and position of the person he is carrying. He can track both voices and faces, and is able to differentiate between eight different odors. Toshiharu Mukai, one of RI-MAN’s developers, indicates they would like to eventually be able to use RI-MAN’s olfactory capabilities to diagnose the health of his elderly charge based on the patient’s breath.

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