Two years ago at IROS 2015 in Germany, Honda R&D presented a paper on an experimental new humanoid robot designed for disaster response. This wasn’t entirely surprising, since we’d guessed that Honda had started working on a humanoid designed to be more robust, and practical, than Asimo after the Fukushima disaster. But as with most large Japanese companies, Honda does an excellent job of (almost) never communicating about the projects that it has under development. Pretty much the only sneak peeks we ever get come from research papers, and last week at IROS 2017 in Vancouver, we got the biggest look inside Honda’s humanoid robotics research and development program that we’ve had in years.
In a paper entitled “Development of Experimental Legged Robot for Inspection and Disaster Response in Plants,” roboticists from Honda R&D showed off the latest prototype of their disaster relief robot, the E2-DR. It’s strong, it’s nimble, and it can even get rained on without exploding.
According to Honda, “the following functional items should be achieved for inspection, maintenance and first response for disasters in social infrastructures, such as plants”:
- Three-dimensional movement such as stairs, stepladders and vertical ladders with minimum size cages including transitions between ladders and steps
- Moving in narrow free widths and narrow spaces
- Moving over pipes on the floor
- Passing through closed doors along corridors
- Able to absorb contacts while moving
- Moving upon scattered debris
- Perception of environment for planning and monitoring
- Prevention of catastrophic fall when robot loses power while moving in a high place such as stairs and ladder