Researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) have developed the NAO Robot, a humanoid that is skilled at Tai Chi.
As noted by Zhi Zheng, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the RIT Kate Gleason College of Engineering, in a press statement:
"We don't have to build our own robot hardware because there are good commercial platforms available. How it behaves solely depends on how we design the control programs. The central part of our research is how we control the robots to do the cognitive and physical instruction properly. "The robot does not really know how to behave coming out of the box. We teach it how to function."
Zheng has a specialized expertise in robotics and virtual reality systems, so the NAO Robot helps explore human-machine intelligence. She has a research background in aiding individuals suffering from developmental disorders, which also can prove worthwhile for elderly residents suffering from mild cognitive impairment.
Instead of worrying about developing their own robot hardware - instead relying on commercial platforms already available - there was specific focus on the control programs leading the robot. Instructing the robot to be able to teach Tai Chi, which has choreographed motion, is able to ensure participants have proper breathing and meditation principles.
Now that the pandemic is under control, research that was temporarily paused is now back on track to full development.
Humanoid robots have a multitude of real-world purposes, not all of them related to taking jobs from humans - there are plenty of opportunities for humanoids to serve as a companion to humans. Teaching a dance class is a fantastic example of how humanoids can teach a class for older adults. Healthcare will remain a significant priority for humanoid robots moving forward, which is something RIT researchers will probably try to focus on in the future.