Cog was a humanoid robot designed by Rodney Brooks's group at MIT as a platform to study robot cognition. It could track faces, grasp objects, and, perhaps most famously, play with a Slinky.
Did you know?
The name "Cog" is a play on the term "cognition" and a mechanical cog.
Rodney Brooks describes how a party he hosted for his students led to the idea of developing an intelligent humanoid robot.Photo: Sam Ogden/Science Source
Rodney Brooks gives an overview of Cog's vision system and describes how even his students would get spooked when the robot stared at them.Photo: Sam Ogden/Science Source
Rodney Brooks describes how Cog learned to play with a Slinky, turn a crank, and even jam with a band.A man and a robot stand side-by-side playing with Slinkys.Photo: Peter Menzel/Science Source
Development of Cog started in 1993 at Rodney Brooks's lab at MIT. The robot's first incarnation was as a 14-DOF upper torso with one arm and a rudimentary visual system. The robot was later upgraded to include two arms, a head, and more sensors. Many graduate students worked on the robot, including Brian Scassellati (now a Yale professor), Aaron Edsinger (founder of Meka Robotics and Hello Robot), and Cynthia Breazeal (now an MIT Media Lab professor). There were no blueprints or schematics. "The robot is just hack on a kludge to a 'temporary solution,' held together with Velcro, 24AWG wire, and solder," the researchers wrote on their website, only half jokingly. Cog was one of the first humanoid robots to use series elastic actuators: The motors on the arms were connected to the joints in series with a torsional spring, which protected the gearbox and provided compliance and more safety for people interacting with the arms.