Artificial Intelligence: TOCABI, The Humanoid Robot, Debuts After Eight Years In Development

October 28, 2021 | Artificial Intelligence, News
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TOCABI launched at the international ANA AVATAR XPRIZE competition.

TOCABI, or short for Torque Controlled compliAnt BIped, a humanoid robot, made its debut recently at the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition. The robot was eight years in the making, with major inputs from New Jersey Institute of Technology Assistant Professor Mathew Schwartz. (NJIT)

Prof Schwartz, lead designer for the project, commenced work on TOCABI while working as a researcher at the Digital Human Research Center, AICT, a lab in South Korea run by Seoul National University (SNU).

Standing 1.8 meters tall and weighing in at 100 Kg, TOCABI has 33 degrees of freedom and features real time avatar control.

Sponsored by All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline, the Avatar XPRIZE is a four-year global competition focused on the development of an avatar system that will deploy a human’s senses, actions, and presence to a remote location in real time, leading to a more connected world.

TOCABI participated in the semi-finals of the competition in September in Miami.

Prof Schwartz worked alongside and under the direction of Jaeheung Park, professor at SNU. Together, they built the robot’s lower legs and a temporary upper body.

Work commenced on the upper body in 2016, and in 2017, Schwartz joined NJIT’s industrial design program.

The two researchers continued their collaboration, however, on the robot’s aesthetics, mechanics and industrial design.

How TOCABI works

TOCABI is powered by a different system compared to the robotic arms we see in manufacturing facilities. These have a fixed range of motions, and do not take into account their surroundings and the presence of humans. As a result, a nearby human being who is unaware of its capabilities may be injured by a sudden movement from the robot.

Instead, TOCABI uses a torque-based control system, which first determines its targeted line of action (where it’s needed to go), computes the energy needed to execute that precise action, and then routes that amount of energy to the motor’s of the robot.

This means the robot will take into account a nearby object, including a human, and move accordingly. This is safe when man and machine (read: avatar) need to work together in emergency or rescue situations.

“The possibility of living in a world where individuals can provide aid during a crisis in a different country without ever leaving the comfort of their homes is closer than ever,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE. “While it’s been difficult this year to predict what the future will bring for the evolving health landscape, these avatar solutions will solve real world problems and can bring people together in more ways than ever before.”

Soonwook Hwang helped on the robot’s legs while Jaehoon Sim assisted on the upper body and was the key person for integrating the entire system – they and more than 20 others brought TOCABI to fruition.

Related Story: Ai-Da, Humanoid And Ultra-Realistic Artist, Detained By Egyptian Security

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