Spoiler Alert! On tonight’s episode of Almost Human, Dorian, the socially intelligent android played by Michael Ealy, had to fight another Android to save Rudy, the scientist. Dorian made it look easily and cleverly found and used a hook to finish off the evil android. But what’s the math and science behind how an android, or any robot for that matter, can calculate where to punch and how to reach for a hook.
The science behind this requires concepts from physics that requires mathematical calculations to determine the kinematic and dynamics models for the robot. For a robot to move a limb, such as an arm, it has joints that can be moved by motors, or actuators. Electrical signals need to be sent to the motors in a coordinated manner to control the positions and angles of the motors and joints. In order to calculate where the joints need to be moved for the robot to reach or in the case of Dorian, hit another robot, he needs to have a kinematic model to calculate positions and a dynamic model to understand how forces are involved in these calculations. In order for Dorian to do these things, he would have to have these mechanical abilities that are driven by the mathematical computations in his brain, or Central Processing Unit (CPU).
This past summer in our Humanoid Engineering & Intelligent Robotics (HEIR) Lab at Marquette one of our students, Matthew Morris, a mechanical engineering student and NSBE Member, worked on developing a kinematic model for our teen-sized humanoid robot, MU-L8. His mathematical calculations were impressive as he used what is called the Denavit-Hartenberg (DH) Method to derive the kinematic model of the humanoid robot. DH parameters are used for both forward and inverse kinematics. Forward kinematics uses the joint angles to discern the position of fist, for example. Inverse kinematics uses a position of that fist to determine the joint angles of the arm, for instance. If these types of things interest you then you should consider studying physics or mechanical engineering to help make people-defending androids like Dorian a reality in the near future.
Disclaimer: Viewer discretion advised due to violence, language, and mature themes.
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