Robots arise in Abu Dhabi

Last night saw the launch of what was described as the first ever humanoid robot developed in the UAE

Tags: Face recognitionHumanoidLinuxRoyal Group
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By  Mark Sutton Published  June 12, 2008

Last night saw the launch of what was described as the first ever humanoid robot developed in the UAE.

The Reem B robot has been developed by Pal Technology, part of the Abu Dhabi congolomerate Royal Group (although strictly speaking the project team is working in Spain), and if the experts are to be believed, its something pretty special.

Reem B looks pretty much like other bots such as Honda's Asimo, although according to the developers its two hour battery life and 12kg lift capacity put it ahead of the pack on pure power alone. Another function which is unique to humanoid bots is its onboard mapping capabilities, which uses ultrasonic sensors mounted in its feet to map the locality and navigate.

The robot can tackle stairs,  walk at up to 1.5 kph, manipulate objects, recognize faces, voices and objects, and stand from a sitting position.

For those that care about these sort of things, its running Linux, with two processors - an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.66MHz and an AMD Geode 500 MHz (one processor handles control, the other multimedia, not sure which is which though). For stability Reem has six axis force sensors and also has a laser range finder. Aluminium construction keeps weight down to 60kg.

On the manipulation front, Reem has been built with a four-fingered hand, with 10 motors, to handle small objects as well as large. Overall Reem has 40 motors, and a 41 degrees freedom of movement.

At the unveiling, in the suitably futuristic environment of a huge great building site, we were treated to a demonstration of Reem's capabilities, ably assisted by Professor Noel Sharkey, AI and robotics expert and one-time judge for the BBC's RobotWars programme. So what did we see?

With any robotics demonstration, its always a hard to tell the actual computational stuff from the pre-programmed, but Reem seemed to do pretty well (and the demo didn't seem to have any hiccups).

We didn't get to see Reem tackle any stairs, and it only demonstrated carrying a heavy load rather than lifting or placing it, but recognizing an object offered to it, and taking it from someone's hand, was a smooth process.

The robot also managed a face recognition task (although only from a set of two faces), identifying the right person quickly by the usual standards of face recognition software. A mapping demonstration, using a raised lip around the stage, also seemed to go OK - the feet mounted sensors can also be aided by the sensors in its head, which presumably helps give a more 3D view of its environment.

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