Great Achievement by Sabancı University Mechatronic Engineers “SURALP”: Turkey’s;First humanoid robot

A team led by Sabancı University Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences Mechatronic Engineering faculty member Kemalettin Erbatur developed Turkey’s first humanoid robot.

Named SURALP (acronym for Sabancı University Robot Research Laboratory Platform), Turkey’s first humanoid robot was presented to the public at the Sabancı University campus in Tuzla on Wednesday, October 13th.
Turkey’s First Bipedal Humaniod Robot: SURALP (Sabancı University Robot Research Laboratory Platform)
Research on humanoid robots in the world began more than four decades ago, and picked up pace in the mid-‘90s.  Bipedal movement of the robot is an advantage in overcoming obstacles present in human environments.  It is also generally accepted that humanoid robots hold a greater chance of being accepted as social creatures by humans compared to non-humaniod robots.  These arguments motivate much research in robot science.  A wealth of research has been conducte don humanoid robots and impressive results have been obtained.  Nevertheless, there remains significant ground to be covered to enable humans to use humanoid robots in their own environments.  A bipedal robot has a propensity to lose babalce quickly due to its articulated legs, and ensuring the safe mobility of bipedal robots poses a difficult control problem. 

Irregularities and varying inclines on surfaces add to the complexity of the problem.  In order to become helpers to humans, humanoid robots must not only walk, but also use their hands to interact with the environment and hold, push and carry objects.  This interaction requires force control techniques for contact, and camera-assisted visual control for orientation toward objects.

The ongoing research on humanoid robots at Sabancı University is a source of pride for Turkey, and a groundbreaking result of this research was the design and production of Turkey’s first humanoid robot, SURALP.

Sabancı University research on bipedal humanoid robots began with the work conducted by Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences member Associate Professor Kemalettin Erbatur at the Yokohama National University as a visiting professor in 2001.  Erbatur returned to Turkey in 2002 with the ultimate goal of designing and manufacturing a live-scale humanoid robot in Turkey.  Humanoid robot research was made one of the key research focuses of the Sabancı University Mechatronic Engineering Program, led by Professor Asif Şabanoviç.  Preparation took much of the period from 2002 to 2006.  During this stage, Erbatur and his students determined the materials, sensors, motors and mechanical parts to be used in the production of the robot, and obtained these.  A 3D humanoid robot simulation software –developed by Erbatur and with few similar applications across the world– was used to test various methods of bipedal robot movement.

The experimental stage began in 2006 with the Research Project 106E040 led by Associate Professor Kemalettin Erbatur and financially supported by TÜBİTAK.  This project included the development of degisn, production and control techniques applicable to a humanoid robot for theoretical and applied work on inclined surface mobility and interaction with the environment.  Force and momentum requirements obtained from walking simulations were used in endurance analyses of the pre-design stage legs.  A partial robot with two legs and a torso containing control equipment (the leg module) was made in 2007.  In the light of the mobility experiments with the leg module, the design and production of arms, hands, a torso with an articulated waist, and the head and neck serving as the mobile platform for the camera arrays continued.  The construction of the live-scale robot was completed by the end of 2008, and the robot was named SURALP (acronym for Sabancı University Robot Research Laboratory Platform).

SURALP has 29 ranges of movement in total, encompassing the arms, legs, neck and torso.  Development of mobility and interaction with the environment continued after the successful completion of the TÜBİTAK project 106E040 in 2009.  The robot can now walk on surfaces with varying inclines, hold on to walls if it loses balance, and use its camera arrays and force sensors to grab and replace objects.

Accepted worldwide
Associate Professor Erbatur and his team authored many international publications where they discussed the design details of SURALP and the mobility and interaction techniques they worked on.  SURALP is now considered one of the leading humanoid robots of the world, and a cornerstone in the research for humanoid robots.

A new era in robotics in Turkey
The design and production of SURALP and the theoretical foundation for bipedal mobility was developed by scientists from Turkey, which is a breakthrough development for robotics in Turkey.  Few countries in the world have succeeded in building humanoid robots, Japan and Korea leading the way.  Fully humanoid robots have only recently been built in the USA and Spain.  Turkey took its place among these nations with SURALP.  When Associate Professor Erbatur began his work on humanoid robots in 2001, Turkey was 30 years behind in humanoid robot technology.  This gap narrowed down to 10 years after the design and production of SURALP in Turkey.  This made Turkey one of the fastest-developing nations in robotics.

Efficient use of resources reduced cost
Another great achievement of Associate Professor Kemalettin Erbatur and his team is the building of SURALP with much less cost and manpower than its counterparts in other countries.  When Honda built the humanoid robot P2 in the late 1990s, they claimed a cost of 100 million dollars and 200 man-years for the building of the robot.  The entire spending for SURALP does not exceed one million dollars.

The great success of the core team
Kemalettin Erbatur worked with 10 graduate and doctorate students during the design and production of SURALP.  Four faculty members of the Mechatronics Program also supported the effort throughout the TÜBİTAK project.  Sabancı University technicians were involved in the building of the mechanical system.  Institutions in other countries working on humanoid robots have much greater people assets.  This is a fact that underlines the success of the core team at Sabancı University.

Sabancı University members who contributed to the design, production and control system creation of SURALP from 2002 to 2010:
Associate Professor Kemalettin Erbatur: Humanoid Robot Research Team Lead
Dr. Özkan Bebek: Graduate Student, 2002-2003
Dr. Yasser Elkahlout: Graduate Student, 2002-2003
Ozan Ayhan: Yüksek.Lisans Öğrencisi, 2003-2004
Okan Kurt: Graduate Student, 2004-2006
Utku Seven: Graduate Student, 2005-2007, Doctoral Student, 2007-…
Evrim Taşkıran: Graduate Student, 2007-2009
Özer Koca: Graduate Student, 2007-2009
Metin Yılmaz: Graduate Student, 2008-2010
Kaan Can Fidan: Graduate Student, 2010-…
Tunç Akbaş: Graduate Student, 2010-…

As part of the TÜBİTAK project 106E040 from 2006 to 2009, Sabancı University Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences Mechatronic Engineering Program faculty members Professor Asif Şabanoviç, Associate Professor Mustafa Ünel, Assistant Professor Güllü Kızıltaş and Assistant Professor Ahmet Onat assisted the project.

Sabancı University technicians Mehmet Güler, Süleyman Tutkun, İlker Sevgen and Umut Demir worked on the production of many robot parts.

Graduate students who took part in the project gained vast experience and expertise that continues to build their careers.  For example, doctoral student Utku Seven has a level of expertise that leads to nationwide seminars on the use of mechanical design programs.  Students who joined the project during its early phase graduated and joined academia or industrial R&D departments.  Evrim Taşkıran is employed in various projects of one of the leading humanoid robot research groups in Europe.

Construction of the robot
SURALP is scaled to the size of an average human.  Its legs and arms have 6 joints each.  The nack has two joints.  The torso is articulated at the waist.  The hand opens and closes with a linear motion.  The majority of the robot is built with aviation-grade, 7000-series aluminum.  Belts and pulleys transmit the rotation of DC motors to the joint mechanisms.  The perception system of t he robot is comprised of various incline, force and momentum sensors and camera arrays.  The electronic control unit of SURALP is located in its back.  Walking and other functions are completed by the control and perception algorithms running on this equipment.
Height 1644 mm
Weight 114 kg
Upper leg length 280 mm
Lower leg length 270 mm
Ankle-sole distance 122,6 mm
Sole dimensions 240 mm x 140 mm
Upper arm length 219 mm
Lower arm length 255,5 mm


Last Updated: 14.10.2010 09:57:00