Some conditions are too dangerous, or just too mundane, for people.

For decades, humanoid robots have been stepping in to take tasks off our hands. One named Manny spent a lot of the 80s being shot with a flamethrower. Another, R2, is currently doing chores in space.

Tech Briefs' podcast series, Here's an Idea™, explores the origin stories and inspiration behind some of today's most innovative technologies. In this episode, we look at how humanoid robots have evolved, and why we have the need for robots that look, act, and even think like humans.

Listen to the episode below, and subscribe here.

Episode highlights include:

  • In 1988, a team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) created a mannequin robot named, well, "Manny." Manny’s job was test the shielding clothing used in hazardous environments. Gordon Anderson, one of the original engineers, talks about his time making Manny.
  • NASA's Dr. Julia Badger is one of the original developers of the Robonaut 2 – the first humanoid robot in space. She talks about expectation versus reality when dealing with a 330-lb robotic assistant.
  • Dr. Jean Scholtz, a computer scientist at PNNL, evaluates how humans interact with computers. Dr. Leslie Blaha, a PNNL mathematical psychologist, leverages cognitive human-behavior models to add a more “life-like” intelligence to robots. The two share their insights in robot-human interaction.

Read the full-length interviews and related stories below.

A Look Back at the Trailblazing "Manny" Robot – A Firefighter's Friend

A Role for Boston Dynamics’ Back-Flipping Robots: Is Space the Place?

How to Understand Humanity Through Humanoids