Engineers from MIT and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a teleoperation method to provide balance to bipedal and give them better agility. A lot of focus goes to four-legged robots that are capable of running, jumping, and even perform backflips, but coordination like that is hard to come by for bipedal robots. To solve the agility issue, the engineers have designed a vest that allows them to transfer their movements over to their two-legged HERMES (Highly Efficient Robotic Mechanisms and Electromechanical Systems) and Little HERMES robots.
The robots are controlled remotely by human operators who wear a specially designed vest that transmits the person’s motion and ground reaction forces over to HERMES. The jacket is a two-way system that enables humans to direct the robot's locomotion and feel their movement at the same time, meaning if the robot starts tipping in one direction, the operator can feel it through ‘balance feedback’ and adjust their stance to prevent that from happening.
MIT post-doctoral student Joao Ramos explains, “It’s like running with a heavy backpack — you can feel how the dynamics of the backpack move around you, and you can compensate properly. Now, if you want to open a heavy door, the human can command the robot to throw its body at the door and push it open without losing balance.” The engineers feel that their new teleoperation platform could provide bipedal search and rescue robots the agility and balance needed to navigate disaster areas, and overcome any heavy obstacles that might impede their efforts.