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Honda’s bipedal robot is designed for disaster relief

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But it’s just a prototype at the moment

Honda has unveiled a new prototype disaster relief robot named E2-DR at IROS 2017 (International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems) in Vancouver, reports IEEE Spectrum. The company had previously announced the experimental disaster relief robot in a paper presented two years ago. Its latest paper, called "Development of Experimental Legged Robot for Inspection and Disaster Response in Plants,” details how the robot prototype is designed to be flexible, strong, and waterproof.

The robot can rotate its torso 180 degrees, and its hands can grip, enabling it to climb up stairs. Honda imagines the robot will work with wireless tools, so the amount of dexterity in the robot’s hands won’t matter as much. The robot itself is able to walk at 2 km/h, step over a 200mm pipe, walk on debris, walk through 26 mm/hour of rain for 20 minutes, and climb up and down a vertical ladder.

Image: Honda / IEEE Spectrum

E2-DR is 168cm (5.5ft) tall and weighs 85 kg (187lbs). It’s only 25cm (9.8in) thick, so it can pass through small gaps of 30cm (11.8in) or wider. The robot can operate for 90 minutes at a time from its 1,000Wh battery. Honda minimized the size of the robot by swapping out standard communication cables for optical fiber ones. The robot can operate in temperatures between -10 and 40 degrees Celsius (14 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit), and has an internal cooling system to stop it from overheating.

E2-DR’s head is made up of two laser rangefinders, several cameras, and an infrared light projector. The robot’s hands also have cameras and a 3D camera embedded into each hand. While all of these features so far sound pretty impressive, Honda has said that E2-DR is a prototype at the moment and a lot needs to be done before it actually becomes useful and viable. The company has worked on the robot for several years, and hasn’t indicated when a final model may be released.