Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Woman vs Robot

I spent a lot of time with robots on my second trip filming overseas. Last week you met Madeleine, the swimming tetrapod. A while back in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, an incredible mine mapping robot escorted me 30 feet underground. And this week I battled it out with FA1 – the world’s first Fighting Android. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was a lot of fun albeit exhausting.

Our location was Virginia Beach, the fourth largest suburban city in North America. Best known for its oceanfront and resorts, the place was certainly in party-mode when we arrived in early May. It felt like one big frat party and there was no shortage of scantily clad guys and girls flaunting their fabulousness. Perhaps they would have been keen to go a few rounds with my new pal. If my tender gluteals were anything to go by, a few sparring sessions with the FA1 could definitely assist in the toning department.

More than just a punching bag, the Fighting Android also provides a fun fitness alternative for gym junkies. Its main aim however, is to reduce the risk of injury during boxing and martial arts training sessions. Simulating the movements of a human, FA1 embodies a life-like electromechanical device that moves backwards and forward, rotates, and dodges to the left and right. The device can throw an array of punches towards the fighter with either hand, including a straight punch, single or double jab, upper cut, right or left cross, hook, and various combinations of these. It typically throws these punches towards the head, torso or arm regions of the fighter. Alternatively, it can assume a defensive posture or throw a counter punching sequence towards the fighter. It may look a little unusual and stilted, but it feels incredibly realistic and puts up one heck of a challenge.

Its inventor, Luther Trawick, has spent the last 15 years trying to perfect his creation. Apparently the greatest challenge was simulating the twisting torso motion of a boxer – a problem he overcame using various devices, actuators (motors), and dummy limbs acquired from his local junkyard. Amazingly, one of the key advances in his years of tinkering was the discovery of windscreen wiper motors, which he used in replicating the side-to-side movements of a human (left to right). An impressive optional feature of the robot is the addition of impact recording sensors, which are placed at strategic locations (such as the face, chest, arms, and ribcage) and used to award points. Various point values are assigned for hitting different regions and the amount of force delivered by a punch. That information is fed into an added circuit and tallied on the computer screen to inform programming sequences and speed.

In terms of safety, the android is fully padded from head to toe as a means of protecting the fighter and itself from injury and damage. The fist is also contact sensitive and if too much force or resistance is applied, it retracts mechanically and electronically. This is the only feature I was unwilling to test myself, but there were a few close shaves and I have to admit it was a little unnerving. Although Luther assured me the punch would be minimal, I decided instead to push my dodging and punching skills to the limit. Twelve hours and many a sore muscle later, the round was over. In one corner, the Fighting Android stood defiant and indestructible. In the other, a body of jelly with only two things on her mind – a succulent steak and a good nights sleep. Both went down a treat.


  • At 10:53 pm, Blogger Emmanuel Frezzotti said…

    Hi Sara. Your picture and your blog is very nice. Im from Argentina. Bye!
    Mi blog is:


  • At 2:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sara,

    You have the most amazing presenting style. You've got the whole 'brains and beauty' thing in abundance - you captivate me and my mates and we actually absorb the information you deliver very easily. It's a race to get home from the gym in time to see 'Beyond..'

    Conratulations on your career success and all the best for the future - you are seriously going places!

    Kind regards,

  • At 9:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for keeping us updated Sara - I always look forward to your stories. Best of luck in the future. I hope to be seeing lots more of you!


  • At 8:58 pm, Anonymous Dave said…

    Hi Sara,

    My kids and I are extreemly disapointed that Ch7 have dropped Beyond Tomorrow for some stupid cop show! I have stoped watching Ch7 in protest and hope that they at listen to their advertisers and return your show to it's rightful place. For now no ratings for Ch7 and their poor decisions. Hope you can get this fixed up ASAP.


  • At 12:03 pm, Blogger Sara said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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