HERMES has to be the ultimate machine -- it has the muscle power of a robot but thinks with the intelligence of a human being.
It is currently living in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) basement, where scientists are exploring just how far it will go to help us in a disaster.
What separates HERMES from its dysfunctional predecessors, is that it is not all machine.
Behind the all-intelligent bot is a human wearing an "exoskeletono of wires and motors" giving the robot perfect balance, reaction times, expert manoeuvrability and processing power.
HERMES' human buddy is called Ramos and he is the brains of the operation. According to MIT, his "every move is translated instantly to HERMES, much like a puppeteer controlling his marionette."
The brilliance of this innovation is conveyed through simple robot actions such as wall-punching.
MIT reports "as Ramos mimes punching through a wall, the robot does the same.
"When the robot’s fist hits the wall, Ramos feels a jolt at his waist.
"By reflex, he leans back against the jolt, causing the robot to rock back, effectively balancing the robot against the force of its punch."
Balance, as the DARA challenged proved, is still a hard-to-achieve feature for autonomous machines.
HERMES is the perfect answer to this problem effectively allowing humans navigate disaster zones without having to be there in person.
“We’d eventually have someone wearing a full-body suit and goggles, so he can feel and see everything the robot does, and vice versa,” Ramos explained.
“We plan to have the robot walk as a quadruped, then stand up on two feet to do difficult manipulation tasks such as open a door or clear an obstacle.”