Humanoid robots are currently being developed for hazard response in industrial facilities for the DARPA Robotic Challenge (DRC) and as a watch/inspector/first responder onboard U.S. Navy ships (sponsored by Office of Naval Research, POC Dr. Tom McKenna). In both applications, the exterior panels of the robot need to clearly identify the robot in its role while also providing some function for the robot. For example, in the DRC exterior panels would clearly identify the robot as part of the emergency responder team while providing it with impact protection in case it falls or runs into something.
Our current research is focused on designing and fabricating a prototype set of 3-dimensionally contoured and graphically relevant protective body panels for the ESCHER (Electromechanical Series Compliant Humanoid for Emergency Response) robot. Our team is completing color, form, and brand studies that inform changes to the visual appearance of ESCHER that promote familiarity with the human workers it interacts with on the job. The research is focused on the robots used in industrial applications to perform routine watch, basic inspection, and initial response in emergency situations.