TALOS’s smaller "sibling" makes its robotic debut at Waterloo
Designed to interact with people, the humanoid robot will be trained to eventually support in situations that are too dangerous, too repetitive or too boring for humans
Designed to interact with people, the humanoid robot will be trained to eventually support in situations that are too dangerous, too repetitive or too boring for humansBy Carol Truemner Faculty of Engineering
After boarding a plane in Spain and spending over a week on a layover in Paris, France, the much-anticipated REEM-C recently arrived on campus.
Now unpacked, the humanoid robot has started an extensive training program without once breaking a sweat.
At 165 centimetres tall, 80 kilograms in weight and sporting the University’s black and gold colours, REEM-C is described as the slightly smaller and lighter brother of TALOS, the full-size black and purple robot that was greeted with great fanfare at Engineering 7 almost two years ago.
Designed to interact with people, the new robot is currently capable of some basic everyday activities such as waving, shaking hands, standing up from a chair and walking.
Researchers are helping to improve REEM-C’s walking abilities so it can effectively navigate along a variety of terrains in a human-like way, an important prerequisite for the robot to eventually accomplish tasks in a wide range of environments including manufacturing plants, households, health-care settings and disaster sites.
One example Mombaur provides where a robot like REEM-C could have made a critical difference is the 2011 nuclear accident in Japan during which it was unsafe for a human to enter the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
“Much of the damage could have been avoided if a valve in the plant had been opened,” she says. “The situation would have been much less severe if there had been a robot that could have gone in to do that.”
Mombaur moved to Waterloo in March 2020 from her native country of Germany where she was a professor at Heidelberg University. An international robotics expert, her work involves studying how people move to improve the motion of robots ranging from humanoids to wearable devices such as exoskeletons.
Her research background will come in handy with long-range plans to teach REEM-C how to help the elderly and disabled with everyday activities. The training for that assistance will begin with basic actions such as reaching out or bending down and handing objects to people.
Complementary skills = no sibling rivalry
Both REEM-C and TALOS were manufactured by PAL Robotics located in Spain. The main difference between the two is that REEM-C is better suited for physical and social collaborations with humans, while the stronger TALOS is better designed for independent tasks.
Mombaur would like to see the two robot “siblings” work together in the future.
“We want REEM-C to interact with TALOS,” she says. “There is such a great opportunity here at the University for robot-to-robot collaboration to advance our research.”