When I first saw Hui Tong (humanoid) I began taking photos, just like the hundreds of other Chinese people who had gathered there. Then, a great surprise happened–the Chinese man on the stage demonstrating the humanoid robot suddenly jumped down to block my camera! Granted, I had not tanned in some time and I was the only non-Asian Western person amidst thousands of Chinese–yet my appearance was like raising a flag! But in China, as we say, welcome to China–a developing nation. In an ocean of people dressed in black, I stuck out like a sore thumb... Forward two years–this time I returned to the Science Center, appearing much more stealthier to attempt photos again. I wore long pants in the hot 90 degree plus temperatures, and blended in by wearing all black (the same as everyone else) and, as an added degree of precautionary incognito, I donned a black cap, black shoes and a black bag. I was immediately met with success and good luck throughout the day. Let’s recount the tracks taken through the Chinese dreamland of science and robotics–and reveal an amazing surprise!
Ma TianTian is seen standing next to humanoid Beibei JingJing and is the master robotics operator of two Chinese-made humanoid robots model BHR-3. These humanoids have controller programs to move forward, backward, squat, dance, perform martial arts, carry on a dialogue, and function with wireless control. In recent years, Beijing with its technical universities has become the Humanoid Capitol of China.
The opening ceremony began with something familiar. Two smaller humanoid robots from South Korea were set on the stage to autonomously perform like twins. The duo was obviously of the same family to the original Robonova humanoids, having a similar number of DOF, build and motions. They went through very interesting performances on their own, including dance, martial arts, acrobatics and spectacular motions. On occasion, one would fall down, then get back up and continue performing. The smoothness of their walking and seamless movements was remarkable. This performance immediately captured the attention and spirit of many young Chinese school children, who would do anything to crawl up on the stage to touch and shake hands with these little mechanical men who were so alive with the magic of motion and inspiration. This could be the first time that any of these children had set eyes on a robot, and especially a humanoid one! The Chinese say “The humanoid robot is the highest achievement of development in robotics. You can appreciate its lovely performance and feel that our future new partner is stepping into our life.”
— the Chinese say “The humanoid robot is the highest achievement of development in robotics. You can appreciate its lovely performance and feel that our future new partner is stepping into our life.” —
These humanoids have very heavy-duty arms, intended for lifting heavy objects and performing industrial work. The hands have interesting fingers and rotating wrists along with an elbow and extra joint. The side chest cavity includes an opening to air-cool the internals. The front view shows a broad humanoid with wide shoulders while the side view suggests leaner build.
Guarding the door. The large humanoids were kept locked up behind these two big doors. Smaller twin robots had to fill in with a substitute performance for the big robots. The small humanoid on the left had fallen but stood up again without any help.
These two robots are identical, from South Korea, and were the number one hit with the kids who had to crawl up on stage to touch their new little humanoid friends.
What happened to the large humanoids? Just 15 minutes earlier, the large humanoid robots fell ill and were no longer able to continue their performances. You could not blame the robots, they were forced to perform every 15 to 30 minutes, all day, every week, month, and year, a grueling exercise schedule that would be daunting to any human. Now they were locked up, resting an indeterminate period of recovery time behind the two big doors and no one was allowed to go in.
Ma TianTian, the Master Operator of the two Chinese-made humanoid robots, was located and a request was made to see the two humanoids to take photos. I increased my chances of photos by stating the big humanoids could stay behind the door. While I hid behind a Chinese translator, a lightning bolt of pure luck struck! Ma TianTian had great patience and granted permission for me to see and photograph both full scale humanoids, and proceeded to unlock the door. I was overwhelmed with excitement and enthusiasm to think that these two large robots from China would now be revealed to the Western World!
The large robot is officially named humanoid Hui Tong and additionally goes by the nickname of Beibei JingJing. Except for the stylish color, both robots appear similar, standing at a height of 170 cm and weighing in at 70 kg. These humanoids were designed and made at the Beijing Li Gong (Polytechnic) University. Mr. Lin Zhao is the leading robotics expert at the university and in charge of the immense project – a massive cooperative effort.
Remote Manipulators. In any inaccessible place (such as dangerous, intensive, or highly polluted or extreme environments such as outer space, deep sea or cramped spaces) remote manipulators can be used to do various tasks. With operating joysticks, two players can use these robotic manipulators to play the Chinese game of Gobang and experience remote control technology.
Machined Robotic Hand. The Chinese say that “hands are fine and complex in structure, and powerful in function - the colorful civilized world is created by hands. So the largest dream of humanity is to create hands like those of man. Unfortunately an active hand is the hardest structure to duplicate.” Buttons and a joystick control the positioning of this artificial hand..
Manufacturing materials include aluminum and ABS plastic. With 28 degrees of freedom, internally it includes positioning motors and encoder wheels, bearings, sensors, controllers, a harmonic reducer, gyroscopes, and other components. But what does it do? Its multiple functions include forward and backward locomotion, squatting, dancing, performing martial arts and dialogue, and it’s done by wireless control. Next, the journey led through the museum to other robotic Chinese inventions, including an undersea robotics vehicle, two large white robot manipulators, and orange robot arms that could fill medical vials and write Chinese characters on a display screen held by another robot arm. Additionally, one could sense the rich Chinese history by viewing many wood mechanical devices such as a Loom, Pestle, and Water Mill, complete with gears, cogs and a mechanical gold mine! You might be surprised to see the variety of precision mechanical things that were built from wood many Chinese Dynasties ago. Mechanical robots are in some serious sense embedded and rooted deeply in Chinese history!
The Korean robots could perform acrobatics, including this precision head stand.
Chinese Water Powered Pestle (206 BC- 20 AD). Ancient Chinese made many mechanical and robotic inventions (to take the place of human work) out of wood formed into cogs, wheels, cams, levers, shafts, gears, sliders, pivots, racks and pinions. The water powered Pestle is one example. It’s a water-driven grain processing device. The driving mechanism is a huge vertical water wheel. Water flow forces the wheel to turn the drive shaft; wings raise the pestle arm, then the pestle drops by gravity and pounds the rice. Use of this machine enabled day and night processing of grain. Many of the large scale working models are indicative of precise and ultra-fine woodworking skills.
Industrial Robot Arms. China manufactures large robot arms for industrial and medical applications. Seen here, a robot arm paces through its program to fill scientific medical test tubes.
The Chinese developed gunpowder, language script, arrow-proof vests, astronomical observatories and rockets. But somewhere in history they closed their doors to the outside world. If this created a lag in science and technology, the Chinese are now catching up. China is becoming more open and sending probes to the Moon, exploring the deep sea, launching spacewalking men into space, and now creating one of the most advanced and sophisticated humanoid robots in the world!