For the first time in the history of robotics, the College of Engineering unveiled seven identical humanoids—or humanlike robots—during the kickoff event to Engineers Week at Drexel.
“It’s unprecedented to have these robots all here,” said Youngmoo Kim, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, assistant dean of media technologies in the College of Engineering and director of the Music and Entertainment Technology (MET) Laboratory.
Engineers Week, which runs Monday, Feb. 20 through Friday, Feb. 24, served as a platform to present the research the group of robots will enable the College of Engineering to study.
Kim said the benefit of having multiple identical robots in one lab setting is that it allows for comparative research—a rarity in such an expensive field of study.
“One of the problems with this level of robotics is these guys are so expensive that most people can’t afford them. The ones who do work with them usually create and develop their own, but they’re all different designs,” Kim said. “By bringing seven robots here and standardizing the research, now everyone is studying on a level playing field. Now, it’s a very apples-to-apples comparison.”
Kim said the robots were flown in from the College of Engineering’s research partner, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), in increments since 2009, with the last three arriving at Drexel in early February.
“These robots have beautiful design and amazing electronics and mechanics,” Kim said. “But they can’t see, hear, talk or feel, so that’s part of our job—to outfit them with cameras, microphones and tactile sensors that allow them to sense the real world.
“Robots, right now, can’t handle this world of humans, designed by humans. If we want our robots to eventually be true assistive robots—doing dishes, putting them away, helping someone who is elderly or handicapped—they need to be able to do the things humans can do. Hopefully at some point in the future, we’ll get there.”
Kim said Engineers Week and events like the humanoid presentation allow for engineers to display the field’s research and its benefits to the general public.
“Robots have already changed the field of manufacturing, but the robots in those factories don’t experience the world like humans do,” Kim said. “We are envisioning a world where robots can help everyday people in their daily lives.”