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How Virginia Tech's pushup robot could one day help people with disabilities

Researchers studying movements with robots

BLACKSBURG, Va. – One of Virginia Tech's newest Hokies is soaring to stardom.

A robot made its debut at the football game Friday night and quickly went viral on social media, so 10 News went to the researchers behind the robot to find out what other tricks the robot can do and why.

"This can definitely go more than pushups," said Kaveh Hamed, assistant professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. "We would like to have very agile robots that can live with us in the environments we are living."

Researchers are working with robots that walk, trot and run with the agility, stability and dexterity of an animal.

"It looks like a robotic machine that is charging at you. What we want to do is take out this notion and make sure that it is accepted into human's natural lives because this is not replacing anything, it is assisting," graduate research assistant Vinay Kamidi said.

The machines come from ghost robotics. The research team at Virginia Tech focuses on the software that brings them to life.

"We believe the most important application is to help people," Hamed said.

Multiple projects funded by the National Science Foundation are working to help humans in very different ways, including making robots capable of reaching unsafe places to assist in disaster relief, developing powered prosthetic legs and becoming guide dogs for the visually impaired.

"Dogs are very smart, intelligent animals, but sometimes they can be easily distracted, right? But these machines are not supposed to," Hamed said.


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