NEXTAGE from Kawada has the versatility of performance we've come to expect from humanoid robots.
NEXTAGE from Kawada has the versatility of performance we've come to expect from humanoid robots.

Sometimes when playing with a pet, I marvel at the power and versatility of my opposable thumbs. That little joint, and some modest brain power, is why a door is just another object to me, but a frustratingly impenetrable barrier to all save the most talented of dogs and cats. Looking at humanoid robots, I get the same sense of power, but in reverse. Extra joints and degrees of freedom give these machines the potential to surpass the manufacturing ability of most humans. Kawada‘s latest humanoid robot, the Nextage, is set to outperform people working solo or in a collective. With versatile arms and precise movements, this could be Kawada’s answer to the SDA 10 Motoman. Check out Nextage opening the iREX 2009 conference and demonstrating its assembling prowess in the videos after the break.

Nextage’s spotlight position at the International Robot Exhibition this year reflects the growing focus on humanoid robots. While swarm, modular, industrial, and animal mimicking robots all have distinct advantages over the human form, they don’t impress the public quite as much as a robot that looks and performs like a person. And on a practical note, humanity has spent the better part of the last ten thousand years shaping the Earth to its own needs so an upright two-armed robot is more likely to succeed in our world. Whether its PR or a case of fitting in, research into humanoid robots is increasing their skill set both physically and mechanically. Watching Nextage assemble some Kawada tiles (second video), I’m not in awe of its speed, but I am impressed with how easily a human could be integrated into its work. Replace one of the three bots with a human…it wouldn’t change much. Which means, that in time, the reverse is likely to be true as well. As humans step out of manufacturing, robots will roll in. As fancy as our thumbs may be, a better system is on its way.

[Photo credit: Engadget]
[Video Credit: Kawada via RobotWatchImpress and Plastic Pals]