In 1987 we began as a hobbyist group in our Founder’s attic in London, where we were trying to create a walking, bipedal robot. Without warning, Honda revealed they had created Asimo, the world’s first walking robot (which meant that our biped turned out to be Europe’s first walking robot). Our biped was primitive and nowhere near as sophisticated as Asimo, so we abandoned the project (the prototype can now be seen on display in the Science Museum).
We turned our attention away from feet and legs, and thought about hands. Why are there no good robot hands? There were 2 finger grippers but no robotic, anthropomorphic, dexterous hands that mimicked human hands. This was our starting point, to create the world’s first, and best, robot hands. We have always wanted to make robots that solve real-world problems, and so for us, posed the essential question – how do you give robots human skills? How can you get them to operate in human environments, and use tools designed for humans? Which led us to thinking about manipulative robotic hands. What helped us to develop this idea was realising that it’s also easier for humans to understand how to control robots remotely via teleoperation, if the robot took the same form as the human hand.