Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. These were built to try out mechanical methods for reproducing the uniquely human bipedal gait. Much of that earlier theoretical research is now done, and research these days usually focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
Although some humanoid robots are built as standalone proofs-of-concept, many are being designed to interact with people. Some of these are very sophisticated and do a lot more than walk. They climb stairs and ladders, drive vehicles, and even play soccer, but they don't look particularly friendly. A few make me think of the rather intimidating Gort in the classic 50s sci-fi movie, The Day The Earth Stood Still.
For example, some of the humanoid rescue robots entered in the DARPA Robotics Challenge are not creatures I would want to meet after a disaster. Others are designed to be smaller and cuter for interacting with children and the elderly. These tend to have more fluid, natural movements. Some can anticipate human behavior and even speak.
Click on the photo of the DARwIn-OP bots below to start the slideshow.
The small size of DARwIn-OP (Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence - Open Platform) is aimed at making this open-source robot more affordable to implement. At the same time, it's equipped with sophisticated sensors, a high payload capacity, dynamic motion ability, and advanced computational power, to make it attractive to educators and researchers as a development platform. Its design is based on the larger DARwIn series humanoid robots also developed by Virginia Tech. Several different software implementations are possible, including C++, Python, LabVIEW, and MATLAB. The robot is 455-mm-tall, weighs 2.8 kg, and is equipped with a USB webcam and Dynamixel motors from Robotis.
(Source: Virginia Tech)