This isn’t the first robot designed to take a hit – we’ve seen ones you can poke with your finger that will stay on their feet. But this is the first little guy who can take a decent shove. What is the secret? It has motorized joints that have been equipped with sensors for extra stability.

This robot may not have a head, but that doesn’t mean there’s no brain – there’s a dual core processor in the chest with a battery life of about two-and-a-half hours.  The chest and pelvis both contain sensors letting the bot know when to stiffen up or relax certain joints in order to maintain stability. Each joint has its own sensor to adjust torque, while the ankles specifically keep track of the slope of the ground, giving the robot extra stability even when not standing on level footing.

It may seem as if the majority of the research and development for the COMAN was invested in keeping the thing upright, but developers claim the primary focus was human interaction – a robot that doesn’t fall down when it gets jostled a bit is simply safer to be around for humans. Developers also focused on making the robot as energy efficient as possible (which explains why the battery lasts so long for a fully autonomous machine). Finally, a great deal of attention was paid to developing a machine that can learn quickly.

We are not at full ‘science fiction robots performing housework’ status just yet (unless you count little flat robots vacuuming for us), but this stand-up guy is a step in the right direction. If the Empire had had these Italian researchers working for them maybe the ‘walkers’ in The Return of the Jedi wouldn’t have been such pushovers!