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VR Interfaces: Mahru-Z


Overview of Mahru-Z
Like all of the Mahru series, Mahru-Z was developed by KIST - the Korean Institute of Science and Technology. This version is the first to finally be potentially ready to serve as a service robot in a home. Albeit a very, very slow home.

The name 'Mahru', is a generic one, referring simply to a male robot. A female robot would be called Ahra. KIST use these definitions in each robot they create. Different generations are differentiated between by the letters after the Mahru or Ahra prefix.

Of course that means there were many models before Mahru-R. Unfortunately, we lack detailed information on all but two of them - Mahru-M, and Mahru-R. The Mahru and Ahra robots take somewhat unique different approach to AI. They are what KIST refers to as 'network based humanoids'. This means that most of the actual processing does not occur in the robot body, but on external computer systems, networked together with the robot receiving a continual wireless data feed.

This novel approach means that the robots can be controlled by remote servers, and one-day, directly by humans, located elsewhere through the net.
The Mahru-Z contains a throat-embedded microphone to pick up orders, torque sensors in both arms and a pose sensor in its hip to monitor bodily position. Its hands have 90 degrees by 90 degrees freedom of movement and individual finger control.

Demonstrated at the consumer electronics show in January 2010, this version was capable of cleaning the room, dumping clothes in an upright washing machine, and heating food in a microwave. Every task demonstrated over and over again at an extremely lethargic pace by proud researchers. In addition the robot was able to pick up stray cups and return them to the dishwasher for washing - it wasn't capable of washing them in a sink itself.

"The most distinctive strength of Mahru-Z is its visual ability to observe objects, recognise the tasks needed to be completed, and execute them," You Bum-Jae, head of the cognitive robot centre at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, told the Korea Times.

Slightly shorter than its predecessors at 130cm, and just 55kg, the Z's greatest problem was its extremely slow movements, as it tottered across a makeshift kitchen.

Apart from tackling chores, researchers say it could also be used in conditions too difficult or dangerous for humans. But mass production for commercial use is still at least a decade away.

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