As impressive as Honda's Asimo robot is, it still walks like a small child perpetually taking its first careful steps. So to ensure that one day robots will be able to fight our wars, clean our homes, and dominate us at sports, researchers at the Humanoid Robotics Institute at Waseda University have redesigned their robot's lower legs to function more naturally like a human's.
Starting with the institute's most advanced humanoid robot, the WABIAN-2R which already uses a unique arched foot and movable toes for more natural movements, the researchers added a crucial yaw joint that serves as a flexible ankle. After studying motion capture data of real humans walking, the researchers also decided to shorten the robot's lower leg to shorten its step and improve its balance.
So far the researchers have only conducted standing tests with the newly dubbed WABIAN-2RIII, having the robot switch balance from foot to foot. But the results are promising, and the researchers are confident the improvements will vastly improve the robot's ability to walk like an adult human with less risk of it losing balance. So unlike in Robocop, it seems that stairs won't be an effective way to escape a pursuing android. [IEEE Spectrum]