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Meet Dreamer: One of the Best Humanoid Robots Yet

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have created a new wave of enhanced robotic technologies designed to efficiently perform tasks and interact safely with humans.

Kristopher Sturgis

UT Austin Luis Sentis Dreamer Robot
Luis Sentis, an assistant professor of engineering at UT Austin, shakes hands with Dreamer. (Image courtesy of UT Austin)

The latest prototype, called Dreamer, was designed from head to toe by researchers and students at the University of Texas at Austin. The project was designed to create a new generation of humanoid robots that can perform tasks with increased efficiency, as well as safely and simply interact with humans.

Dreamer features some of the most advanced tools in humanoid robotic technology, including high resolution cameras for eyes, hands with unprecedented grip and dexterity, and a wheelbase that allows Dreamer to navigate almost any terrain. Luis Sentis, an assistant professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT, launched The Human Centered Robotics Lab six years ago in an effort to create advanced robots like Dreamer.

"The goal is to go outdoors and adapt to the environment and task," Sentis told university news. "Right now, robots can't go into a place where there are obstacles or debris. We are trying to solve this."

Robots are increasingly playing an important role in medtech and medical device manufacturing, with robotic breakthroughs becoming more frequent. Advances include surgical robots with extreme precision, to soft robotics that can be implanted and moulded to various environments. However, the increasingly ubiquitous nature of robotic technologies has its drawbacks, as we prepare for a world filled with autonomous advanced technologies.

It is a reality that Sentis and his colleagues are keenly aware of as they look to create other humanoid robotic technologies like Dreamer that are completely safe for human and environment interaction. The high resolution cameras that operate as the robot's eyes were built with sensors and lasers to help Dreamer perceive and respond to its surrounding environment.

The team's latest challenge has been elevating Dreamer's mobility so that it can be self regulated. Their goal is to allow the robot to move freely in any environment, and adapt to different terrains, obstacles, and debris. Just last year the team launched a cloud-based advanced robotics laboratory, known as CARL, that allows users to observe and even control humanoid robots like Dreamer from a smartphone or tablet through a web-based portal.

Sentis and his team believe that future versions of their humanoid robots could have a variety of applications, from delivering food and medicine into disaster areas, to eventually working alongside astronauts through the help of NASA funding.

For now, the team believes that Dreamer is on the frontline of innovation when it comes to advanced humanoid robotic technology. Sentis and his team of colleagues and students hope to usher in a new era of interactive robotic technologies that will not only improve the world around us, but also safely engage with humans in exciting new ways. 

Learn more about cutting-edge medical devices at BIOMEDevice Boston, April 13-14, 2016.

Kristopher Sturgis is a contributor to Qmed and MPMN.

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