You might be familiar with the iCub, a toddler-sized, humanoid robot that first showed up in the news in the early 2000s. iCub is more than a cute robot that does cool tricks. It’s an advanced, open source robotics platform designed to support a wide range of community research in cognitive systems, and it made an impressive first debut. In its early days, it was already learning to talk and move like a human, putting in appearances at international conferences, and shaking hands with world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian President Georgio Napolitano.
iCub emerged from impressive parents, too. A consortium of partners (engineers, neurophysiologists, developmental psychologists and more) guided by the IIT (Italian Institute of Technology) originally designed iCub. And they went all out: They gave iCub 53 motors to move its streamlined, articulated body parts and equipped it with capabilities to see, hear, speak, move, orient itself in space and detect other characteristics of its environment—and to learn.
2010: iCub learns to crawl (RobotCub Consortium (http://www.robotcub.org), Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL)
Even if you’re not familiar with the iCub, you’ll recognize one of the CAD programs behind its hardware: Creo Parametric powered much of the design of iCub’s sophisticated frame and mechanics. The files for parts custom-designed for the iCub are open access: You can download them yourself at the iCub project site www.icub.org/index.php.
Open source icCub parts created in Creo Student edition.
iCub and the researchers who use it have been busy since those early times. More than 25 iCub platforms are available now. Teams around the world continue to contribute to the iCub’s design and platforms to drive new AI research.
These days, you’ll find the iCub doing things like learning to visually track objects and people, reasoning its way through physically challenging problems, speaking natural human language, and understanding and following complex directions delivered by voice. Now the iCub is developing a sense of touch and a set of increasingly advanced robotic motor skills that let it play with toys, pour cereal into a bowl, and even do tai chi.
iCub demonstrates highly dynamic balancing via force control (a.k.a. does tai chi) https://youtu.be/9XRI4BeXN78 (IIT)
Itching to explore the iCub’s design or create a new design of your own? Students can download the free Student edition here.