Humanoid robots are being made all the time, but most of them are made exclusively for entertainment or never even make it out of a lab. The HERMES robot, however, seems very promising and quite useful: the robot is able to “mimic” human movements very accurately, so it can be used in countless activities.
HERMES is being developed at MIT and is described by one of the researchers as an “attempt to put the human brain inside a robot.” A description that seems somewhat vague, right? But when we understand how the robot works, it becomes easier to assimilate the idea: the HERMES performs movements by accurately mimicking a “master”.
This “master” uses a type of “exoskeleton” with sensors installed that detect movements and transform them into coordinates for the robot. Based on this information, the HERMES repeats the movements performed by the operator almost instantly.
The robot can hold objects, push items, perform gentle or quick movements and so on. The possibility of a robot capable of moving autonomously is being considered for a future step in the project. For now, the main purpose of the project is to put the HERMES to work on activities that are too dangerous to be performed by humans.
An expert in bomb disposal can control the HERMES from a safe distance, making the robot check a suspicious device, for example. Through a camera installed in what would be HERMES’ head, the operator checks what has to be done and performs the movements that the robot must perform to manipulate the object. The robot can also be used to explore areas affected by nuclear accidents, to check the internal conditions of a building threatening to collapse, among many other things.