The AIRarm is a robot arm developed by iRobot with funding from DARPA. It is inexpensive as compared with an arm of similar size and lightweight as well. It weighs around 1/10th of the weight of the PackBot 3’s arm. The best part is that it can be easily deflated and kept. A pump is located onboard that allows it to inflated and deflated. Despite its light weight, AIRarm is still pretty stiff once inf, and can lift up to five pounds, or possibly more depending on how much its inflated. By varying the level of inflation, it’s also possible to vary the level of compliance of the arm: this makes the arm a little bit flexible when you need it to be, which in turn makes it safer and more durable. The same construct is used to develop a six legged robot as well.
This is a long awaited competition for robotics is here. This should hopefully drive research in this field. Many humanoids have always been showed in staged environments given the difficulties in getting them to perform in the real world.
There are many difficulties that has to be overcomed but actuator design. Dr. Gill Pratt, DARPA’s program director, is in-charge of this challenge. He is familiar with this field, given he is the inventor of the Series Elastic Actuator at MIT where he was developing robots for locomotion. He’s the right person to drive this development.
Here’s a good article about actuators used in legged robots.
There has been many advancement in using traditional electric servo motor solutions to locomotion. Petman at Boston Dynamics and DLR with their Bipedal Robot.
Robocup has a similar goal in development of humanoids as well.
By mid-21st century, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win the soccer game, comply with the official rule of the FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup.