Robot Uses Science to Deliver the Perfect Hug

Hugging probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about things that robots could help humankind with, but a team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems disagrees. The team has been involved in a project for years to create a robot that could deliver human-like hugs and replace actual people in various situations, such as for the lonely or in circumstances where a person would be unable to deliver a hug. Introducing HuggieBot, the first fully autonomous human-sized hugging robot that's apparently quite the hugger. The advanced robot incorporates two inflated chambers of polyvinyl chloride to imitate a soft chest, but there’s a lot more than that. HuggieBot delivers hugs using a pair of Kinova JACO arms mounted to a custom metal frame that were selected for being realistically human, quiet, and safe. As a hug takes place, a barometric pressure sensor and microphone inside the artificial chest detect human touch and begin transmitting data via a microcontroller board to a computer located in HuggieBot’s 3D-printed head. HuggieBot can stay still, move slightly vertically, tap or pat a person’s back, and squeeze with varying degrees of pressure. The team focused on building “hugging commandments,” such as the need for the robot to be soft and warm. HuggieBot isn’t perfect, and its creators point out that it isn’t quite like hugging a real person, but they hope that one day the robotic hugger will be able to replicate the sensation of human hugging to perfection.