We just found a new friend. Kojiro, a humanoid
being built by the University of Tokyo's JSK Robotics Laboratory, has a detailed musculoskeletal system built to mimic the human body. It works on a system of artificial bones, muscles and tendons to create a robot that is theoretically more light and agile than your regular bot, and which moves in a more organic fashion to our untrained eyes. The bot has motors which pull cables that simulate the method which muscles and tendons interact, and has about 100 tendon-muscle structures, giving it 60 degrees of freedom -- more than an average rotary joint bot like Asimo (34 degrees, last time we checked). The robot shaves weight with its lighter, plastic materials and small brushless motors. The idea is to make a robot that's more people friendly by not being substantially heavier or more rigid than a human it might come into contact with. Of course, that's not the only perk of a bot built like this: the human-style flexible and twistable spine gives Kojiro all sorts of abilities that your regular bot is just too straight-spined for. Like the limbo, for instance. The big difficulty here is that all the motion and flexibility means Kojiro is a big chore to program, and there's an army of gyros, accelerometers and force sensors embedded throughout the bot to help it learn its balance. Currently they're working with an iterative learning process to get small motions down until Kojiro can eventually manage more complex motions like sitting motionless at a desk for nine hours on a Saturday, tending to FarmVille. Check out a video of Kojiro in limited action after the break.