Decoding Humanoid Robots and their Wide Impact

Humanoid robot development is a multidisciplinary branch associated not only with science and engineering but also social, ethical and legal domains, writes Tapas Badal

According to Tapas Badal, Assistant Professor, CSE Department, Bennett University, development of humanoid robots is part of multiple disciplines as it is associated with Science and Engineering, as well as Social, Ethical and Legal domains. 

As humans are of compassionate and emotional nature, if we were asked to choose a robot as our companion, we would want them to have characteristics similar to us. Humanoid robots have a similar appearance, movement and decision-making capacity as humans. They have sensors to detect and determine the environmental qualities and they’ve actuators to detect movement. These robots can be used as alternatives to human beings in cases of emergencies. Example, they are capable of interacting with children in classrooms and they can interact with patients and differently-abled children in hospitals.

Tapas Badal

Healthcare humanoid robots are used in assisting doctors while giving treatment and in improving medical conditions of patients. Working as a surgical assistant is the primary responsibility of a humanoid robot. To reduce distress, they can also be used as assistive devices. 

In the field of education, they are used to make learning exciting for children. The appearance of robots can be used to increase the user’s responses during interactions. In previous studies, positive results were seen in student participation, creativity, knowledge recall rate, curiosity, etc when a humanoid robot was involved.

Humanoid robots are still in their developmental phase but they are well established in manufacturing, military, and research. The uses of humanoid robots are many as they can be deployed into areas such as nuclear power plants, fire disasters, space station repairs, etc.

Sophia and Atlas are the two most advanced robots currently. Sophia is a humanoid robot who is social. Atlas is developed by Google-owned Boston Dynamics and US Defence Advanced Research Project Agency, and this robot can do a backflip. There are other humanoid robots too, like NAO who is a 58 cm tall robot developed with the aim to make it a friendly companion. 

In the fields related to humanoid robotics including artificial intelligence, neuroscience, speech recognition, computer vision, etc, there is plenty of room for innovation. This field of humanoid robot development is connected to social, legal and ethical domains along with plain science and engineering.

The author and team are working on NAO at Bennett University. They are trying to incorporate intelligence in the robot’s behaviour towards humans in a random environment. The NAO humanoid robot is made to play soccer with added inputs to help locate and kick the ball towards the goal.

The team finds it equal to nurturing babies when they work with humanoid robots. It is as frustrating to make them learn as it is interesting to work with them. The robots are known to misunderstand the conversation, fall during a walk, and they fail to recognize you. But with further development, humanoid robots are predicted to evolve better and have surprising capabilities in the future.

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