A humanoid robot is a robot with its body shape built to resemble that of the human body. A humanoid design might be for functional purposes, such as interacting with human tools and environments, for experimental purposes, such as the study of bipedal locomotion, or for other purposes. In general, humanoid robots have a torso, a head, two arms, and two legs, though some forms of humanoid robots may model only part of the body, for example, from the waist up. Some humanoid robots may also have heads designed to replicate human facial features such as eyes and mouths. Androids are humanoid robots built to aesthetically resemble humans.
Humanoid robots are used as a research tool in several scientific areas.
Researchers need to understand the human body structure and behavior (biomechanics) to build and study humanoid robots. On the other side, the attempt to the simulation of the human body leads to a better understanding of it.
Human cognition is a field of study which is focused on how humans learn from sensory information in order to acquire perceptual and motor skills. This knowledge is used to develop computational models of human behavior and it has been improving over time.
It has been suggested that very advanced robotics will facilitate the enhancement of ordinary humans.
Although the initial aim of humanoid research was to build better orthosis and prosthesis for human beings, knowledge has been transferred between both disciplines. A few examples are: powered leg prosthesis for neuromuscularly impaired, ankle-foot orthosis, biological realistic leg prosthesis and forearm prosthesis.
Besides the research, humanoid robots are being developed to perform human tasks like personal assistance, where they should be able to assist the sick and elderly, and dirty or dangerous jobs. Regular jobs like being a receptionist or a worker of an automotive manufacturing line are also suitable for humanoids. In essence, since they can use tools and operate equipment and vehicles designed for the human form, humanoids could theoretically perform any task a human being can, so long as they have the proper software. However, the complexity of doing so is deceptively great.
They are becoming increasingly popular for providing entertainment too. For example, Ursula, a female robot, sings, play music, dances, and speaks to her audiences at Universal Studios. Several Disney attractions employ the use of animatrons, robots that look, move, and speak much like human beings, in some of their theme park shows.These animatrons look so realistic that it can be hard to decipher from a distance whether or not they are actually human.
Although they have a realistic look, they have no cognition or physical autonomy. Various humanoid robots and their possible applications in daily life are featured in an independent documentary film called Plug & Pray, which was released in 2010.