Jan. 21 - Robotocists in Bremen, Germany have developed an ape-like robot capable of standing upright thanks to its flexible spine. Called ''Charlie'', the robot is a technological test-bed for machines that may one day help humans both on earth and in space. Rob Muir has more.
"Charlie" is a robotic ape. He's being developed by scientists at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, as a test-bed for new technologies and improved robotic design. Charlie's flexible spine allows him to stand on two legs and walk on four, but project leader Daniel Kuehn, says he has more ambitious plans for the machine. (SOUNDBITE) DANIEL KUEHN, DFKI PROJECT LEADER, SAYING: "Our next step will now be to teach the robot to walk on two legs," Key to the research has been the development of sensors for Charlies feet and ankles that can produce data to keep him upright and a spine that can behave as an integrated part of an interactive system for locomotion. (SOUNDBITE) DANIEL KUEHN, DFKI PROJECT LEADER, SAYING: " With the spine it can move in six directions the way we humans are able to do it, with one extra movement. The foot contains a total of sixty sensors in order to adapt and measure different ground structures." And with incremental improvements. Kuehn and instiutute head Frank Kirchner believe Charlie will eventually be able to flex his spine as humans do, to supports a range of motions using his arms. (SOUNDBITE) PROF. DR. FRANK KIRCHNER, DFKI HEAD OF INSTITUTE, SAYING: "I believe that as far as the kinematic, sensoric structure goes, Charlie is currently one of the most advanced robotic systems worldwide in the class of walking systems. He is extremely important to us as a research object but also for future research projects because it is one of the first robotic systems which actually implements these complex structures." Structures that could one day be applied to planetary exploration. Future versions of Charlie might also become factory workers or robotic home help...although the researchers admit that's many years into the future and Charlie must learn to walk before he can run.