Meet Acroban, a compliant humanoid project being developed by the Inria Flowers Research team in France. This humanoid robot, made mostly from RX-64 Dynamixels from the look of it, is impressive in that it uses a semi-passive dynamic locomotion and reliance on natural backlash compliance (along with structural flex & elastics) to portray some very lifelike movements.
Acroban is a lightweight compliant humanoid robot capable of robust semi-passive dynamic locomotion, life-like movements, and offers the possibility of a new kind of playful physical human-robot interaction. We developped this platform to explore how morphological constraints can simplify the developmental acquisition of complex sensorimotor skills, as well as to explore novel kinds of human-robot interaction.
The video demonstrates this very well, bringing a rather mechanical and utilitarian looking robot to life. Inria Flowers calls this the ‘Luxo Jr. Effect’ named after the pint size companion of Pixar’s lovable Desk Lamp mascot. It really is true though; something about the way this robot moves reaches out to our primal emotional response, making our brain think it’s something actually alive. In doing this, the robot effectively leaps over Uncanny Valley by coming across as very human-like without the increasingly creepy aesthetics that many humanoids fall victim to.
The Luxo Jr. Effect
Enough talk, check out the demonstration video (especially the interaction with kids later on). If you’re looking for more info, the Acroban Page has a wealth of videos and writing on the project.