Introducing TOCABI, a full-size humanoid avatar.

Started in 2013 with the lower legs, Mathew Schwartz began working on the design of the robot while he was a researcher at the Digital Human Research Center, AICT, a research lab in South Korea run by Seoul National University at the direction of Professor Jaeheung Park.

After 8 years of development, the humanoid robot named TOCABI (Torque Controlled compliAnt BIped ) is finally completed, making its first debut at the ANA AVATAR XPRIZE. Started in 2013 with the lower legs, Mathew Schwartz began working on the design of the robot while he was a researcher at the Digital Human Research Center, AICT, a research lab in South Korea run by Seoul National University at the direction of Professor Jaeheung Park. During that time, the group built the lower legs and a temporary upper body of the robot. In 2016 the design of the upper body began, and in 2017 Schwartz joined the industrial design program as an Assistant Professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Since then, Schwartz and Park have continued to work as an interdisciplinary team, combining the aesthetics and industrial design with real-world challenges of engineering, manufacturing, research, prototyping, and development. With a 12-hour time difference, arranging meeting times had always been a challenge, but their previous experience together and through their use of online-collaborative design tools, the team was able to work through the pandemic with relative ease.


While there are a variety of ways to develop a robotic system, TOCABI uses what is known as torque-control. Unlike robotic arms found in a manufacturing facility that are controlled by commanding a position, which has dangerous implications for a human in the way of its movement, torque-control first determines where it wants to go, but calculates and commands the amount of energy needed to the motors for that movement. This torque-based system makes it much safer to have robots interact directly with humans, such as the case for an Avatar. The robot is 1.8 meters, 100Kg, and has 33 degrees of freedom. The robot is the culmination of many years of work, resources, and especially-- people. From Soonwook Hwang helping on the legs, to Jaehoon Sim helping on the upper body and the key person for integrating the entire system - and over 20 more people that were key to the projects successes.

This past week, Schwartz joined the team flying from South Korea, in Miami, for the Semi-Finals of the Avatar XPrize. Results of the team progressing to finals will be released in the next few weeks. To learn more about the competition, robot and team, visit ANA Avatar XPRIZE | XPRIZE Foundation, https://avatar.xprize.org/prizes/avatar and 서울대학교 동적로봇시스템 연구실 (snu.ac.kr)

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