■Reporter Shen Yunsha

At the 12th China-Italy Innovation Cooperation Week held recently, the 21st Research Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation and the Italian Institute of Technology signed a strategic cooperation agreement on the joint construction of an international joint laboratory for robotics. According to the agreement, the two parties will jointly tackle key problems around humanoid robots and related technologies, achieve breakthroughs in core key technologies, and jointly develop a new generation of humanoid robots around the needs of application scenarios such as emergency rescue and disaster relief.

This is not the first partner of the "circle of friends" for the research and development of humanoid robots of the 21 institutes of China Electronics Technology. On November 11, the institute released its first humanoid robot and reached a strategic cooperation agreement with the Yuanzhi Robotics Research Institute of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Since entering the field of humanoid robots three years ago, its partners have covered more than 22 universities, scientific research institutions and enterprises at home and abroad.

Since the beginning of this year, the development of humanoid robots has entered the fast lane, and the industry predicts that the demand for humanoid robots is expected to exceed that of smart cars in the future. At the Shanghai Science and Technology Innovation Achievement Exhibition in the Future Park of Zhangjiang Science City, a group of humanoid robots developed by Shencheng were all unveiled, cool "out of the circle". By deeply cultivating the underlying technology and strengthening the power of the "circle of friends", humanoid robots, which are recognized as the most complex product forms in the robot category, will gradually mature and achieve mass production, and finally enter real life and thousands of families.

As Gu Jie, chairman and CEO of Fourier Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd., said, "Just like 20 years ago, people would not have thought that today's mobile phone is a touch screen. What humanoid robots will develop into, no one knows. The humanoid robots of the future will not only have sight and hearing, but may also have a sense of touch. The process of iterative evolution requires a lot of investment and time. ”

Advance to the highest peak of the robot industry

From robotic arms, exoskeleton robots, quadruped robots to humanoid robots, this is a "mountaineering path" for the robot industry with a rising degree of difficulty. Why is the humanoid robot known as the most difficult peak to overcome? The reason is that it needs to have both a "developed brain" and a "clever mind".

Fan Chunhui, deputy director of the Robot Engineering Center of China Electronics Technology 21 Institute, said: "Humanoid robots should recognize accurately and have strong perception, and when the information perceived by the 'brain' is converted into signals and transmitted to the 'limbs', the coordination between the brain and the hand should be good, and it should be able to jump high, grasp and walk steadily." ”

The difficulty can be sensed by a set of numbers: the number of joints in a mechanical exoskeleton is 4, that of a quadruped robot is 12, that of a humanoid robot is around 30, and that of a humanoid robot is 10 to 16 joints. It is difficult to make so many joints work together and move smoothly.

As a national strategic scientific and technological force, CETC 21 has long been engaged in the research and development, trial production, production and testing of micro and special motors. In 2018, the institute established the State Key Laboratory of Special Robots, successively developed collaborative robots, quadruped robots and exoskeleton robots, and established two main business systems: micro and special motors and components, robot bodies and core components.

Jiang Zhiyong, an engineer at the Robot Engineering Center of China Electronics Technology 21 Institute, said that at the beginning of 2020, the center began to march towards the "crown jewel" of the robot industry - humanoid robots. As the most complex robot at present, humanoid robots have higher requirements for visual recognition, motion control algorithms, joint coordination, etc.

Not long ago, the first humanoid robot of China Electronics Technology 21 Institute was unveiled. It is 162 cm tall, weighs 60 kg, has 39 degrees of freedom (including finger joints), has a maximum load of 5 kg on one arm and 10 kg on both arms, and can walk at a maximum speed of 5 km/h. At present, the robot can complete dexterous operations such as holding water cups and moving boxes, and also has agile obstacle avoidance capabilities, and can walk stably on uneven roads such as slopes, gravel grounds, and grasslands.

"Long legs" will be standard for humanoid robots

In terms of appearance, the first humanoid robot launched by China Electronics Technology 21 is still a bit "short and fat", mainly because of its short legs. With the increase in height, the difficulty of developing humanoid robots is also rising.

Jiang Zhiyong told reporters that there is little difference between a humanoid robot of fifty or sixty centimeters and a humanoid robot of more than one meter three, but there is a qualitative leap in the difficulty of research and development. "The center of gravity of the small robot is relatively low, and it can be basically stable by relying on the large soles. Once the robot becomes taller, its structure and control methods are different, and it pays great attention to the motion control algorithm and the use of materials. He said.

However, two factors determine that the development of humanoid robots must be similar to humans. On the one hand, similar body shapes perceive the environment similarly, which helps machines make intelligent decisions similar to humans, and on the other hand, people expect humanoid robots to "seamlessly" enter the human world without changing environmental parameters, Fan said.

At present, most Shanghai-made humanoid robots are about 1.65 meters tall. For example, the GR-54 with 1 degrees of freedom developed by Fourier Intelligence is 1.65 meters tall, the humanoid bipedal robot "Seven Fairies" is 1.65 meters tall, and the "Expedition A1" led by Peng Zhihui, a "Huawei genius boy", is 1.75 meters tall.

The Italian Institute of Technology, which has recently joined the "circle of friends" of robot research and development of 21 institutes of China Electronics Technology, has launched the 1.9-meter-tall "Walk-Man", which can successfully cross obstacles to enter the fire scene that humans cannot reach in a simulated fire environment, find a fire extinguisher and open it to spray dry ice to extinguish the fire. With the establishment of the International Joint Laboratory of Robotics, 21 humanoid robots will also evolve to "long legs", and their walking will become lighter.

Humanoid robots have a broader market in the home

After years of accumulation and development, robots have been deeply integrated into Shanghai's industrial bloodline. According to statistics, the density of industrial robots in Shanghai has reached 260 units per <>,<> people, which is twice the international average. In addition to emergency rescue and disaster relief, industrial assembly lines and other application scenarios, the broader market for humanoid robots is in the family, and its long-term market demand will be much higher than that of current industrial robots.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and other ministries and commissions issued the "2025th Five-Year Plan" Robot Industry Development Plan, "Guiding Opinions on the Innovation and Development of Humanoid Robots" and other documents proposed that by 2, China's humanoid robot innovation system will be initially established; Three industrial development clusters have nurtured and developed a number of new businesses, new models and new business formats.

Gu Jie said that general-purpose humanoid robots will gradually become the mainstream of the industry. Based on the company's years of hard work in the field of rehabilitation, the GR-1 humanoid robot will be the first to be applied in livelihood scenarios such as rehabilitation escort, and the robot has been delivered in small batches. In the future, humanoid robots with large artificial intelligence models and strong locomotion capabilities are expected to be engaged in various jobs such as housekeeping services, elderly care, education, medical care, facility inspection, emergency rescue and disaster relief. Because of their developed "brains", they can understand natural language instructions and communicate well with humans, and because of their close physical size, they have a wide field of vision and can use tools, and will become human stand-ins in many situations.

"Expedition A1" is directly aimed at the domestic robot market. The humanoid robot integrates a variety of advanced intelligent technologies such as ontology control, perception, cognition and decision-making, and carries out a series of innovations based on the large language model at the forefront of the current AI field and its self-developed visual control model.

At present, internationally renowned institutions, including EPFL Fédérale de Lausanne, RoboSuits in Italy, and Wearable Robotics, have successively joined the "circle of friends" of robot research and development led by CETC 21. Fan Chunhui revealed: "A pilot production line for humanoid robots will be built in our robot building, which is expected to be completed in 2025, and robot companies are welcome to use it." ”