Athena has created history by becoming the first humanoid robot to travel as a paid passenger on a commercial airline. Athena is a full-sized humanoid robot with head, hands and legs sporting a pair of stylish red sneakers along with a white T-shirt.
Ahtena was the center of attraction at the Tom Bradley International Terminal as she was moved in a wheel chair to pick up her economy class ticket to take off on a commercial Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. Athena was not alone, however, as there were two scientists- Herog and Jeannette Bohg who accompanied her. Very soon Athena drew attention of the media, cameras flashed and people captured pictures of her on their cellphones.
Designed by the Salt Lake City engineering and robotics company Sarcos, Athena was bought by Germany’s Max Planck Society with the aim of getting her trained with new skills such as standing, balancing, walking and many other meaningful activities, which she can use to assist people in daily life. Eventually, researchers hope that she can perform tasks too dangerous for humans, such as cleanup after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan.
Max Planck scientist Alexander Herzog, who accompanied Athena on the flight, said that they never wanted humans to go to such places and sacrifice their lives; instead, they would like to have a robot perform the same task, such as opening up doors and cleaning up.
It’s not uncommon for travelers to pay for an extra seat for large, bulky, or precious cargo – musicians commonly will pay for a seat for their expensive and delicate instruments, for example. Most of that equipment lacks a humanoid face, though.
While the DARPA program focuses largely on teleoperated robots, Max Planck Institute aims at developing novel robots that can act rationally and independently during emergency.
So, why did Athena’s creators decide to fly her as a passenger on a commercial airline instead of shipping her? The answer to that was simple. It was economical to fly her as a passenger than shipped as electronic gear. The researchers were also curious about how other passengers on the flight would respond to a humanoid robot by their side. The matter was clear: passengers responded mostly with curiosity.