Cog

A human shaped robot with exposed electronics looks at it's fingers, which are pushed together to form an O.
Cog exercises its fingers. Photo: Sam Ogden/Science Source

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.

Creator

MIT

Year
1993
Country
United States 🇺🇸
Categories
Features
Rodney Brooks and his team present Cog. Video: PlasticPals

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Did you know?

The name "Cog" is a play on the term "cognition" and a mechanical cog.

Close up of a woman and robot staring at each other.
"Look into my eyes, Cynthia." Photo: Sam Ogden/Science Source
4 monitors show different views of a woman.
The world according to Cog. Photo: Sam Ogden/Science Source

Audio

Rodney Brooks describes how a party he hosted for his students led to the idea of developing an intelligent humanoid robot.

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.

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.

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

History

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.

Multiple exposure photograph of the robot turning a hand crank.
Cog learns to turn a crank. Photo: Sam Ogden/Science Source
A humanoid robot manipulates a Slinky.
Even robots love Slinkys. Photo: Peter Menzel/Science Source

Specs

Overview

Able to recognize objects and reach for a visual target. Equipped with series elastic actuators for safer operation around people.

Status

Discontinued

Year

1993

Website
Width
200 cm
Height
172 cm (including pedestal)
Sensors

Each eye with two cameras (one wide and one narrow field of view), three-axis inertial system, load cells in each joint, optical encoders, array of tactile sensors, two microphones. Various limit switches, pressure sensors, and thermal sensors (to gather proprioceptive data).

Actuators

Series elastic actuators for the arms and DC gearmotors in the chest.

Degrees of Freedom (DoF)
22 (Arms: 6 DoF x 2; Torso: 3 DoF; Neck: 4 DoF; Eyes: 3 DoF)
Power

External power supply