This Motoman bot is versatile enough for almost any task. Looks like it might start popping and locking, too.
This Motoman bot is versatile enough for almost any task. Looks like it might start popping and locking, too.

Teach a robot to fish and it will fish forever. Give a robot humanoid arms and it will build the fishing pole, catch the fish, gut it, pack it in ice, cook it, and then perform a little dance. The Motoman SDA 10 can do all that and play the drums, thanks to its amazing arms. If you want to be convinced of the Motoman's versatility and human-like capability, just check out the multitude of videos after the break. Building chairs, cameras, cooking, serving beer...the SDA10 does it all.

How can the SDA 10 accomplish so much? Well it helps that its arms have more joints than a Bob Marley concert. Seven dual-action axes, fifteen degrees of freedom, and a diverse set of hand attachments give this Motoman bot the range of motion needed to emulate a human performing a task. That's a smart move by the company's owner, Yaskawa Industries. By building a highly articulate robot, they've allowed a single design to fit many different situations. Instead of building a new bot for each task in your factory or office, why not just reprogram the SDA 10? That keeps the cost down, and the robots flying off the shelves.

Just looking at the SDA 10 assemble a chair, I can imagine it working well alongside Kiva's warehouse robots. Let one bot fetch the parts, the other assemble the would be a pretty efficient system. Or take the partnership in reverse. Right now, Kiva robots move stacks of goods to humans, who then sort them. The SDA 10, however, is great at sorting and moving. A version of the bot, humorously called the Dextrina (I'll let you decide if it looks female), is shown below unpacking mail. Flawless execution and there's little chance of it ever going postal.

While the camera assembly highlights the Motoman robot's ability to handle delicate objects, I think cooking breakfast is even more impressive. Here we have a video of the SDA 10 whipping up a batch of okonomiyaki, a traditional Japanese morning treat that vaguely resembles a pancake. If you're someone who doesn't like to wake up before noon, you can still have another Motoman robot fetch you a beer. Look at it pour with patience. Smooth.

By mimicking, and in many cases excelling, the human arms, Motoman has allowed the SDA 10 to plug into almost any task that humans can perform. It's a brilliant strategy, so much so that we see in many other robots such as Dr. Robot's Hawk, and Willow Garage's PR2. In a world we've already designed to fit a two-armed biped, designing humanoid bots makes a lot of sense.

While the SDA 10 is not the most efficient setup for every task, it is one of the most versatile. In the future we may have humanoid robots smart enough that they don't have to be reprogrammed for every task. Instead, they could learn new ones by observation. When that happens, robots will present an unparalleled tool for completing almost any task. But hey, until that happens, we can still get a kick out of them playing the drums: