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Just like in the movies. Scientists have developed a giant robot arm that can withstand a hammer blow

Maria ShevchukNews
Twice as big and strong as a human arm, the robot arm should protect AI from being shaken. Source: Shadow Robot Company

A huge, super-fast robot arm that is almost impossible to destroy looks like a menacing prop from a science fiction movie. But it is quite real and is already being used to develop the next generation of artificial intelligence robots.

The limb is quite heavy - 4.1 kg, and about 50% larger than a human limb, writes Mail Online. Developed by the British company Shadow Robot Company, this three-fingered claw can go from fully open to closed in just 500 milliseconds.

The robot's arm is strong enough to withstand the impact of hammers or pistons. This strength should help the arm survive the rigorous and often destructive process of teaching AI to interact with the world.

Just like in the movies. Scientists have developed a giant robot arm that can withstand a hammer blow

The arm was developed over four years in collaboration with Google Deepmind. Shadow Robot Company CEO Rich Walker says the bulky design is a necessary solution.

While robots on factory floors are capable of performing simple routine actions such as moving sheets of metal from one place to another, the real world requires more complex movements.

To enable robots to perform more complex tasks or act autonomously, they need artificial intelligence to control their motors. But the learning process can be particularly expensive and disruptive for the robots themselves.

"If you've ever watched a child learn, you know that at the beginning of the process, they move randomly before they start to connect their actions to what they see in front of them," says Mr. Walker.

When you put AI under the control of a robot, the process is very similar, with the only difference being that robots lack the resilience of humans. To learn a task as simple as picking up objects, AI needs to make thousands of repetitive attempts through trial and error.

However, the early stages of the learning process are often so unstable that robots often dislodge themselves.

"What you and I call touching something, people in the robotics community call a collision," Walker explained.

Just like in the movies. Scientists have developed a giant robot arm that can withstand a hammer blow

To avoid the robots simply breaking into pieces during training, Shadow Robot Company had to make its arm extremely strong.

The company uses a combination of larger, more resilient parts and motor control to allow the fingers to move in collisions and avoid damage. Each finger is also a modular component, so it can be quickly replaced in case of damage.

However, to be useful in machine learning development, the hand also needs to be sensitive. Under the surface of each finger, there are hundreds of tiny cameras that focus on the inside of the skin.

When the hand grasps something, the cameras detect how the skin deforms and can determine how hard or soft the object might be.

Just like in the movies. Scientists have developed a giant robot arm that can withstand a hammer blow

Mr. Walker says the arm is currently in the production stage, so there is no current confirmed price yet.

"This robot is not going to be cheap, but it's not going to be as expensive as the ones we've made in the past," he said.

Walker explains that the reason is that the arm is designed to be replaceable and easily repairable.

Although the limb was developed for DeepMind, Mr. Walker says it will also be sold to other companies and research institutions.

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