We've seen robots optimized for stability before, but where, for example, Dr. Guero's modified Kondo KHR-3HV could withstand the odd gentle prod with a finger, the Italian Institute of Technology's COMAN is apparently made of sterner stuff, remaining vertical in the face of rather more determined jostling thanks to its sensor-equipped motorized joints.

Being a sensing, autonomous machine, COMAN is a robot in the truest sense of the word. Despite its apparent state of headlessness, the robot is not without a brain. In its chest is a dual-core Pentium PC104 CPU, along with a battery pack providing 150 minutes of gadding about.

Overall balance is assisted by inertial sensors in the pelvis and chest, but the key to its resilience against knocks is its series of motorized and elasticated joints which adjust stiffness when needed. That need is determined by torque sensors in each joint, as well as degrees-of-freedom sensors in the ankles with which COMAN senses the ground and adjusts to inclines.

Despite the apparent emphasis on staying upright, the researchers frame this as compliance, the better to increase safety in human-robot interaction (COMAN is short for Compliant Humanoid Platform). Other stated project aims include reducing energy consumption, and achieving faster machine learning.

COMAN brings us a step closer to the day when robots may make fine, upstanding members of human society (no again, Ed).

See the video below for a sense of COMAN's capabilities.

View gallery - 7 images