Twendy-One: The Humanoid Robot AIP Helper?

Marc Weiser, Chief Technologist Xerox PARC said: “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. Twendy One has soft hands that can easily grasp and pick up objects.They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”

Well, Twendy-One may not exactly disappear into the fabric of our lives but there is the potential of becoming an integral part of our everyday life. Twendy-One is designed to be a robotic helper to assist with everything from exercise and independent living to shopping. It’s the product of more than 10 years of research led by Professor Shigeki Sugano and his team at Waseda University, along with the cooperation of more than 20 private companies, to build a robot that co-exists with human beings in a super-aging society.  Their goal: create a practical robot that could safely assist the elderly in everyday tasks.  The result is one of the world’s most advanced humanoid robots.

According to “Its most innovative feature is its mechanical passive impedance mechanism, which is used throughout its body to adapt to unexpected external forces.  It has a total of 47 degrees of freedom and can move in virtually any direction.  It can bend at the waist allowing it to pick up objects from the floor, and is strong enough to support a person’s weight (up to 35kg [77 lbs]) as they get out of bed or up from a chair.  From a practical standpoint, this may not seem like enough, but actually statistics show that more than half of people requiring nursing care are relatively healthy and don’t require full assistance.”

Twendy One is almost warm and fuzzy. It’s body is covered with a soft, shock absorbent silcone rubber, minimal external wiring and sensors that sense human touch, if it’s being pushed or proximity of objects. The head has stereo camera/LED eyes and it can roll, pitch and tilt.  The hands though are most remarkable with soft finger tips, hard nails and the ability to easily pick up and grasp a wide variety of objects.

Japan set a goal to have an aging-in-place helper robot by the year 2017. The Twendy developers expect to having a practical working model by 2015. It’s estimated to cost between $110,350 to $220,700.