UAE scientists say developing Avatar-style robot

Scientists at UAEU are creating a robot which has the potential to become a tool for bomb disposal
UAE scientists say developing Avatar-style robot
By Staff writer
Sat 25 Feb 2017 11:27 AM

Scientists at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) are creating a hi-tech robot designed to mimic human movements - resembling something from epic sci-fi movie Avatar.

The robot – which has the potential to become a tool for bomb disposal – is designed to give its operator the same control and sensations as if they were using their own limbs, allowing them to feel whatever it touches, the UAEU said in a statement.

The first stage of the project has been developed, designed and built by Dr Fady Alnajjar, assistant professor in the Department of Information Technology at UAEU, and his team of specialists.

The statement said the UAE Air Force has provided AED55,000 funding for the initial stages of the self-controlled, avatar robot’s creation.

Dr Alnajjar and his team of four students have worked for more than a month to construct the first stage of the robot - two human-controlled arms working via sensors and modelled on the arm of a person in their mid-30s.

In the movie Avatar, remotely-controlled human bodies are used to interact with the inhabitants of a distant moon.

Dr Alnajjar said: “The only way to sense a situation at present through using a robot is through vision – there is no sensory or tactile feedback from the environment. Also, the user will only be controlling a robot’s hand using a remote-controlled tool, but that is not like using an arm – it doesn’t allow the same level of freedom, such as how far you need to open a hand and hold a grasp.


“When we control our own arm, we don’t have to think of this type of thing; we don’t have to consider how much freedom we need or how far to open our fingers to hold a cup or open and close and door. Our brains automatically control this.”

The UAEU project aims to allow the person in control to simply act naturally in order to operate the robot.

“We are building sensors which the controller can wear, and then all they need to do is move as if they actually are the robot,” he said.

At present, the robot has been developed using wires about two metres long, which are connected to the gloves used for human control. Ultimately, however, the goal is to use wi-fi or wireless technology to allow the robot to be controlled from up to 15m away without any physical connection.

The team also plans to incorporate technology that allows the robot’s head – through a 360-degree camera – and upper limbs to be controlled.

Dr Alnajjar added: “At the moment, its functionality is at around 50-60 per cent. It now needs some fine-tuning in the field, and there is the potential for it be customized to meet the needs of a particular client.

"With its potential to be used in bomb disposal, accuracy is the key requirement, and accuracy is what we are aiming for.”

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