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By Keith Wagstaff

Like the machines in "Pacific Rim," "Real Steel," and so many awesome Japanese cartoons, a new robot with a human interface could let people enter dangerous situations from a distance.

The prototype is called HERMES and, while it might be a good candidate for "Rock'em Sock'em Robots," it was designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology students to enter disaster sites someday.

The robot is kind of like an advanced puppet. If its human operator grabs a power tool, it will do the same -- an ability that could prove useful in the aftermath of an earthquake or nuclear meltdown.

What really makes HERMES special is its balance feedback system. The person controlling the machine can feel the robot's weight shifting because he or she is connected to a metal exoskeleton. That means if the robot is in danger of falling, the human can react quickly enough to keep it upright —preventing the all-too-common (and hilarious) spills seen at the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

"We’d eventually have someone wearing a full-body suit and goggles, so he can feel and see everything the robot does, and vice versa," Ph.D. student Joao Ramos said in a MIT press release. "We plan to have the robot walk as a quadruped, then stand up on two feet to do difficult manipulation tasks such as open a door or clear an obstacle."