When you need to move something but it's too heavy to lift off the ground, most of us default to one of two strategies: find someone stronger, or shove it along the floor instead. Researchers from the University of Tokyo's JSK Laboratory are now teaching robots to do the latter. The latest version of its HRP-2 is able to analyse an object, say a heavy crate on tiny rollers, and try different methods of exerting force. Much like a human, lower force strategies mean pushing or pulling with its hands, while higher strength methods include leaning in with a single shoulder or its back. The robot will monitor each attempt and automatically switch to increasingly higher force strategies if it finds the object still isn't moving. Depending on its progress, the HRP-2 will also alter its footwork to ensure it doesn't fall over; a slow-moving object might require shorter steps, for instance, to make sure it's not caught off guard by a sudden change in resistance. It can't replace your local moving company (yet), but it's nice to see a robot finally putting its back into something.
[Image Credit: University of Tokyo/JSK Laboratory]