Copyright © 1995-2009 by the Asian
Technology Information Program (ATIP).
This material may not be
published, modified, or otherwise redistributed in whole or in part, in any
form, without prior approval by ATIP, which reserves all rights.
Japan is well-known for its high level of technology in both industrial
robotics and more recently entertainment robotics. In an effort to address two
ongoing problems facing Japanese society, namely the ageing of Japanese society
and recurrent natural disasters, the Japanese government is hoping to adapt and
enhance the country’s robotics expertise by developing anthropomorphic robots
to assist humans in these situations and others. This report details one major
project known as the Humanoid Robot Project sponsored by the New Energy and
Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to develop “Humanoid and
Human Friendly Robotics Systems”.
KEYWORDS: Government Policy on Science and Technology, Robotics
DATE : 15 Jul 2003
4. Development of humanoid robot
6. continuing research
8. weblinks and contacts
Japan, a country known
for its mechanical engineering prowess and expertise in robotics, has begun to focus
its attention in an area previously only portrayed in science fiction movies
and novels. This area is the automation of laborious, dangerous or even
everyday mundane tasks through the application of human-friendly
anthropomorphic robots. One factor in particular which is driving this new
research is the ageing of Japanese society. The proportion of the aged
population will double from 10 to 20 per cent in less than 25 years. In
contrast, most European countries took more than 50 years to reach the same
level of demographics (Ogawa and Retherford 1993a). The government foresees the
need for functional robots which will be able to nurse and care for the aged
and infirm. Due to a forthcoming shortage in the workforce the government is
also hoping for the development of robots to perform personal services for
people to help them with their everyday lives. Additionally, these robots
will be used for home and building construction, maintenance of plants and
power stations, security and crime prevention and human rescue in disaster
situations. This report outlines a large-scale ongoing Japanese government-sponsored
research effort known as the “Humanoid Robotics Project”. Additional
discussions of recent robotics research in the area of “Rescue Robotics” may be
found in ATIP03.003 : Rescue Robots in Japan: University Research.
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END OF REPORT ATIP03.041a
ATIP03.041 (continued): Humanoid Robotics Project
Copyright © 1995-2009 by the Asian
Technology Information Program (ATIP).
This material may not be published,
modified, or otherwise redistributed in whole or in part, in any form,
without prior approval by ATIP, which reserves all rights.
Japanese government is facing
dual problems of ageing of Japanese society and recurrent natural disasters. In
1998, the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) started to promote
research and development of “Humanoid and Human Friendly Robotics Systems”. From
1998-2003 NEDO provided USD 40.5M for the Humanoid Robotics Project.
Humanoid Robotics Project (HRP)
strives to develop anthropomorphic robots that can interact successfully within
human society through assistance in labor-intensive tasks, everyday chores, as
well on a higher social level.
Participation in the HRP project
involves 12 industry research groups and 11 public and private University
HRP consists of two efforts; (1)
development of a common robot technology platform and (2) application of this
platform to human assistance tasks.
Applications developed included;
housing and building construction, operation of industrial vehicles, personal
care service, building and home management, plant maintenance.
Humanoid Robotics Project has
clearly shown the feasibility of producing stable bipedal walking robots in a
natural human environment.
Recent versions of the HRP
platform have shown a capability for robots to interact with humans to assist
in mundane tasks.
Presently practical applications
are few especially when cost/performance values are considered.
Most promising areas for
immediate application are disaster relief and assistance, demolition or
hazardous waste disposal.
Allure of agile anthropomorphic
robots which can interact in a normal human infrastructure will continue to be
irresistible to university researchers, industry, and most likely, Japanese government
IMPACT & ASSESSMENT
Although the level of
technology for anthropomorphic human friendly robots is still far from being
applicable to everyday life, certain applications such as disaster relief and
assistance, demolition, or hazardous waste disposal are very promising. In
these areas due to the life threatening environment, the price/performance
levels of these machines may be acceptable. Additionally, the lure of research
and development of human-like robots will continue to fuel research interest
and Japanese government and industry funding for the foreseeable future.
Starting in fiscal year
1998, the Japanese Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) started to
promote research and development of “Humanoid and Human Friendly Robotics
System“ as one of its key projects within the Industrial Science and Frontier Program
(ISTF). The Japan Manufacturing and Technology Science Center (MTSC) was
entrusted to carry out this project under the guidance of the New Energy and
Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
The research and
development project covering “Humanoid and Human Friendly Robotics Systems“ formally
became known as the Humanoid Robotics Project (HRP). This project strives to
develop robots which can interact successfully within human society through
assistance in labor-intensive tasks, everyday chores, as well on a higher
social level. Specifically, robots were to be developed which could execute
complicated work and could move flexibly through various geographical terrains
by means of remote control with communication networks, while at the same time harmonizing
and coexisting with human beings.
The original HRP Project
was funded by NEDO from 1996-2003 and was broken into two stages. In the first
stage, which ran from 1996-1998, US$500K was provided for leading research on
the Friendly Network Robotics Project. The project aimed to develop
technologies for making human friendly robots that can provide services to
humans in homes, offices, hospitals, etc. The research agenda included;
mechanisms for human friendly robotics, human-robot collaborative control
methods, distributed intelligence technologies and mind-network tele-robotics
technologies. As in many Japanese research projects, this phase was really
designed to provide a lead-in to a larger follow-on effort.
In the second stage, which
lasted from 1998-2003 and was broken into two terms, NEDO provided US$40M to develop
the hardware and software for the HRP. During the first term, the aim was to develop
a common platform to integrate various component technologies previously
realized by industry, academia, government, and to assess the most advanced
technologies. As a side note, this was the first time such an approach was
applied by ISTF, but due to its success it has become the new paradigm for
promoting cooperation in the development of new technologies. The second term
lasted three years from 2000-2003 and involved research related to the application
field where utilization of the humanoid and human friendly robot is expected.
Here, improvement and supplementation of various kinds of component technologies
were performed on the platform which had been developed in the first term.
Participation in the HRP
project involved 12 industry research groups and 11 public and private
University research groups (see below). The industry groups were centered on
five different application areas which are discussed in Section 5. They are as
Construction assistance - Kawada
Industries Inc, Shimizu Corporation,Yaskawa Electric Corporation
Operation of industrial vehicles
- Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Tokyu Construction Co, Ltd.
Personal Care service - Hitachi,
Ltd., Matsushita Electric Works Ltd.
Building and home management - Fujitsu
Ltd., Sogo Keibi Hosho Co,Ltd. And
Plant maintenance - Mitsubishi
Heavy Industries Co,Ltd.
Honda Motor Co.,Ltd.
Kawada Industries Inc.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.
Electric Works Ltd.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Co,Ltd.
Sogo Keibi Hosho Co,Ltd.
Yaskawa Electric Corporation
Hiroshima City Univ. (Asada Lab.)
S Kyoto Univ. (Osuka Lab.)
E Kyoto Univ. (Yoshikawa - Yokokoji Lab.)
Osaka Univ. (Arai Lab.)
Tohoku Univ. (Uchiyama Lab.)
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Tsukuba Univ. (Sankai Lab.)
Univ. of Tokyo (Ikeuchi Lab.)
Univ. of Tokyo (Nakamura Lab.)
Univ. of Tokyo (Tachi Lab.)
Waseda Univ. (Humanoid Robotics Institute)
The actual development of
hardware and software began in 1998 and is still continuing today. The
platform development can be broken into five major tasks as outlined below.
(Source: Japan MSTC)
Production of a robot platform
The goal of this project
was to produce the hardware portion of a human friendly robotics system with a high
degree of safety and reliability. The first generation robot, known as HRP-1 is
160 cm in height and 60cm in width, with a weight of 99kg. The HRP-1 can
propel itself using bipedal motion at speeds of up to 2km/h within a 2cm path deviation.
Additionally, it can ascend and descend stairs with a 20cm height per step. Finally,
the HRP-1 is capable of lifting an object of 10kg from the ground using its two
arms. For body motion control, the HRP-1 uses an Intel Pentium III 850Mhz, 512MB
RAM and 128MB compact flash. Additionally, it employs a Honda I/O board,
11Mbps wireless LAN and 100 Mbps wired LAN connections.
Development of HRP Platform (Source: Japan MSTC)
and Development of an Intelligent hand
high-performance hand was developed to enable the robot to grasp objects
firmly yet flexibly. The hand includes actuators with 12 axes of freedom, a
touch sensor and a force sensor. It also has four fingers and can grasp and
lift an object of 2kg weight.
Intelligent Hand (Source: Japan MSTC)
Humanoid robot platform HRP-2
The HRP-2 platform is the
second generation humanoid robot platform (see figure above). The design
concept of HRP-2 is light and compact, but performable for application tasks
such as cooperative work with a human. The HRP-2 robot has height, width and
depth of 154 cm, 62cm, 35.4cm, respectively, and a weight of 58kg. It has 30 DOF,
a 2.0 km/h bipedal walking speed and a 6kg lifting capacity. HRP-2 has unique
design features including a cantilever type hip joint a double jointed wrist.
(4) Development of
a remote control cockpit platform
A remote control cockpit
has been developed to unify several control functions including; generation of
feedback to the operator to add a heightened degree of reality to his sense of
sight, hearing, force and touch, inputting operation instructions, and
(5) Development of
a virtual robot platform
This software system is
composed of a dynamic simulator and a library of the basic operations. This is
an ongoing effort to develop a total system that supports research, design, and
development of the control system for humanoid robots. The software can be
downloaded and also utilized through the Internet.
In a construction
environment, there are many chores that are carried out by a pair of an expert
and a novice. The humanoid robot HRP-2 has been developed with a biped
locomotion controller, stereo vision software and aural human interface to achieve
cooperative work by a human and a humanoid robot. HRP-2 can find a target by a
three-dimensional vision system, and carry it cooperatively with a human using
biped locomotion according to the voice commands given by the human. Cooperative
control is applied to the arms of the robot while it carries the object, and
the walking direction of the robot is controlled by interactive force and
torque through the force/torque sensor on the wrist. HRP-2 control algorithms
enable the robot to walk on an uneven surface and it possesses shock absorbing mechanisms
and motion control that reduce damage when tipping and falling. The robot also
is able to right itself after having fallen.
HRP-2 Assisting in construction tasks (Source: Japan MSTC)
This is the first
successful trial in the world to remotely control a humanoid robot so as to
drive industrial vehicles (backhoe and forklift truck) in lieu of a human
operator. These results were achieved through to the development of the following
three technologies: (l) "remote control technology" for instructing
the humanoid robot to perform body movements from an offsite location and a
"portable remote control system" for executing remote control tasks;
(2) "protection technology" for protecting the humanoid robot against
shock and vibrations of its operating seat and against the influences of the surrounding
environment such as rain and dust; and (3) "full-body operation control technology"
for controlling the humanoid robot's total body movements with autonomous
control capability to prevent the robot from falling over.
HRP-1S Operating backhoe (Source: Japan MSTC)
characterized by the advent of the aging society, the increase in the number of
people requiring long-term care, and the declining birth rate have resulted in
a labor shortage of workers in the field of long-term care. This in turn has
led to a growing demand in hospitals, care facilities, and other situations for
long-term care support in the form of humanoid robots that offer a high degree
of affinity with humans. Such robots may serve to lessen the burden on
long-term care workers, and enable patients to receive care without feeling
that they are placing such a burden on others. Focusing on applications in
this field, and using the HRP-1S, this research developed an extended task
library that enabled simple planning of complex operations required for walking
and arm movement, as well as compact, easy-to-use remote operation equipment
and a conversation agent to support communications with a wide range of users. The
conversation agent allows communications support by voice conversation and execution
of work according to the situational environment. Additionally, it provides gesture
and facial expression control of the robot that matches it to the content of the
conversation. In doing so, a system that enables high-level complicated robots
to be operated easily even by non-specialists has been created.
HRP-1 Greeting patient and giving physical exercise instructions
(Source: Japan MSTC)
Building and Home
The aim of this research
is to develop robot hardware and software that result in a sentry in a building
for security functions or a housekeeper doing simple tasks such as checking the
locks or turning on/off of the switches in a house. In this application area, there
is a strong need for humanoid robots because of their suitability in a human
A remote control system
that instructs the robot to work from outside the house via the Internet by using
Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) or mobile phones has been developed.
This remote control
system enables the robot to do routines autonomously and enables the user to
control the robot manually according to the situation in the room by viewing streaming
images from the robot's camera. The system also has capability to detect a
person going into the room and to send emergency information to the user's
HRP-1 Turning off gas range (Source: Japan MSTC)
Remote control of HRP-1 via PDA and cell phone (Source: Japan MSTC)
A humanoid robot can maintain
and inspect equipment such as factories and power plants during their operation. Since the robot can maintain the
equipment and carry on the hazardous work without suspending operation this
will result in an extension of operational lifetime and less plant downtime.
An IC Tag guidance navigation system has been developed. Additionally, robot movement
on an unusual inspection route by the simple remote teaching with visual
information and the rapid valve operation by visual feedback has been achieved.
HRP-1 Turning off valve in power plant mock-up (Source: Japan MSTC)
The humanoid robot
"HRP-2" and the software platform "Open HRP" developed by
the HRP are expected to be utilized in the future as the basis of R&D for
the Humanoid Robot Project. Using these platforms, even newcomers to this
project should be able to rapidly come up to speed and focus on developing
The HRP-3 project has
recently been announced by NEDO as a continuation of the HRP project. This
will be an effort for real world application of the platform which has been
developed thus far. Real world applications cited include; entertainment
robots, care service robots, dismantling of incinerators, disposal of hazardous
objects, rescue work at a disaster scene, tunnel excavation, etc.
It is felt that applications
in the fields of entertainment and hazardous environments will be utilized
first due to the cost/performance ratios for the current state of the
The HRP Project Leader,
Prof. Hirochika Inoue of the University of Tokyo, has stated that in the future
"I want to interlock the motion of hands and legs during walking, to raise
the capability of the upper half of the body, and to strengthen cooperative
operation of the whole body.
Additionally, Prof. Inoue
has explained the necessity for the further research and development toward
suitability in communal life with humans such as equipping the robot with a
soft coating to look more “human-like” and also provide cushioning during falls.
The Humanoid Robotics
Project has clearly shown the feasibility of producing stable bipedal walking
robots in a natural human environment. Moreover, later versions of the HRP
platform, such as the HRP-2, have shown a capability for robots to interact
with humans on a natural everyday level although they are somewhat limited to
mundane tasks. The research, although promising and impressive is still a long
way from practical applications especially when cost/performance values are
considered. However, the allure of agile anthropomorphic robots that can
interact in a normal human infrastructure will continue to be irresistible to university
researchers, industry and most likely Japanese government funding agencies as
well. The most promising areas for immediate application are extremely
dangerous tasks where human life is in jeopardy, such as disaster relief and
assistance, demolition or hazardous waste disposal. Interest and research in
these areas will continue to grow especially in light of current world events.
additional questions regarding the present report, please contact:
Victor G. Stickel
Technology Information Program (ATIP)
Roppongi Bldg. 1F, 6-15-21 Roppongi
Tokyo, 106-0032 Japan
+81 3 5411-6670; Fax: +81 3 5411-6671
of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)
Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) http://www.nedo.go.jp/english/index.html
Manufacturing Science and
Technology Center (MSTC)
Ogawa, Naohiro and Robert D. Retherford (1993a),
‘The Resumption of Fertility
Decline in Japan, 1973-1992, Population Development
Review, Vol. 19,
No. 4, 703-741.
END OF REPORT ATIP03.041r