The days of robotic humanoids have arrived, and not all that surprisingly, in the form of a young “child” robot, who is learning in much the same way that human children learn. The iCub, as it’s called, progressively learns about its own bodily skills and how to interact with the world, and it will eventually learn how to communicate with others. The parent company, Robotcub, has two main goals. The scientific goal is to study the development of cognitive manipulation skills (manipulation, imitation, gesture communication). The engineering goal is to build a humanoid platform – hence the iCub – to be used by the scientific community as a common open source platform (GPL/FDL: software, hardware, drawings, documentation, etc.).
The iCub is the humanoid baby-robot being designed within the RobotCub project. It is a full humanoid robot sized as a three and half year-old child; about 3 feet tall. It has 53 degrees of freedom, including articulated hands that are used for manipulation and gesturing. iCub can crawl and sit; and transition from crawling to sitting and vice-versa.
There are currently 6 versions of iCub, each being trained to learn and adapt its behavior as circumstances change. Practical goals for iCub include becoming household helpers (loading dishwashers, etc.) and hospital companions (playing games with patients, for example). Because the iCub is open source, anyone and everyone has access to its schematic, allowing progress on the project to expand much more rapidly than if only one company was working on it.
While iCub is not Star Wars ready, it is fascinating to see the progress this childlike robot is making. Check out the RobotCub site and watch any of the Youtube videos, such as the one below, which shows iCub following an object with its eyes, and reaching for it with its hands.