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In the late 2000s, researchers at the University of Tehran produced a simple humanoid robot — or android — named Surena. Later, an advanced model called Surena II was released — with bipedal, walking legs, followed by Surena III in 2015. Now the Iranian roboticists have completed Surena IV, a leap above its predecessors. Surena IV can mimick human poses, grasp a water bottle, and write its name on a whiteboard.
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The robot can wield power tools
Surena IV is the product of a 50-person research team, working at the University of Tehran's Center for Advanced Systems and Technologies (CAST). Headed by Professor Aghil Yousefi-Koma of mechanical engineering, the team worked tirelessly for four years to bring their project to completion.
"Improving the robot's interaction with the environment was one of the main goals of the Surena IV project," said Yousefi-Koma in an IEEE Spectrum report. He added that the improved version of the robot tracks objects more accurately, and achieves greater dexterity with better hands. Both enhancements allow Surena IV to manipulate and operate a wide array of complex objects, including power tools.
Custom force sensors coating Surena IV's soles help it step over uneven surfaces by adjusting the position and angle of each foot individually. Its walking speed rose to 0.7 kilometers per hour (0.43 mph) from the 0.3 km/h (0.19 mph) maximum of the last generation.
However, Surena IV is not an extremely dynamic machine, like Atlas, the famously-agile android from Boston Dynamics. Surena IV uses a whole-body motion controller that continuously tweaks its posture to keep from falling.
A robot to compete with the world
In general, Surena IV is more comparable to humanoid robots like UBTECH's Walker, Honda's Asimo, AIST's HRP-2, Pal Robotics' Talos, or KAIST's Hubo — but these robots have already shown a broader range of capabilities.
To increase funding and stay in the robotics game, Yousefi-Koma has worked to popularize the robot, and make it "very competitive," so Surena IV may "take part in an international challenge," and open the doors to real-world applications.
Footage released during Surena IV's unveiling in late 2019 showed the humanoid lifting a box, to find a Surena Mini, another, knee-high robot CAST developed in 2017.
Of course, one of the most notable upgrades to the Surena IV robot is the new exterior plastic cover, which gives it a sleek, borderline-menacing facade. This is perhaps ironic to Yousefi-Koma, who says Surena IV is a "symbol of technology advancement in the direction of peace and humanity" — one he hopes will inspire people both in Iran and around the world with the seemingly-limitless potential of modern robotics technology.