HOAP-3 robot (via Beziers Technology Institute)


OK, so maybe student Tirosh Shapira, from Bar-Ilan University in Israel, isn’t really a Jedi, but computer scientists from the international VERE (Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-embodiment) group provided the next best thing; letting him control a robot from over 1000 miles away using only his mind. The VERE project is a multi-national conglomerate of scientists working towards the goal of giving disabled people the opportunity to interact with the outside world through surrogate robot representations (like the movie Surrogates).


The group has recently demonstrated the projects capabilities by using Tirosh as a volunteer situated in Israel who was able to control a Fujitsu HOAP-3 robot located at Beziers Technology Institute in France. The ‘Jedi’ mind power was actually done using a rather new piece of technology known as fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which works almost like a conventional MRI machine except it measures activity in various parts of the brain by detecting changes in magnetization between oxygen-rich and poor blood. The group capitalized on this technology and used its ability to map portions of the user’s brain and correlate that activity into a series of specialized algorithms that are able to control the HOAP-3. Once the software was able to identify and translate Tirosh’s brain patterns, the data was then sent over the internet to the surrogate robot. Obviously there were some initial problems, which included lag and ‘spatial-awareness’, but these were compensated for and became easier for Tirosh to control once the French team took advantage of the camera embedded in the robots head.


The HOAP-3 robot the group used for the demonstration features 28 joint-servos that include 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) for both feet, 5 DOF for both arms, 1 DOF for the waist, 1 DOF for both hands and 3 DOF for the head. The robots sensor load-out consists of a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, force sensing resistor for both feet, infra-red distance measuring sensor and a separate grasp=force sensor for both hands. HOAP-3’s head is equipped with 2 CCD stereo cameras with an embedded speaker and microphone along with a set of LED’s to approximate facial expressions. The 60cm tall, 19.4lbs robot features an on-board Intel processor and uses RT-Linux as the primary programming OS (C++).


The group plans to use a more human-like robot in the future as well as the incorporation of muscle stimulation to further immerse the user into the surrogate experience. If their project ever becomes commercialized it will be able to give bed-ridden disabled persons an incredible opportunity to interact with the environment outside of their homes which would provide them a sense of freedom which is invaluable.