The late Dr. Aizawa Zirou (1903-1996), the first director of the Children’s Institute for Cultural Activities Foundation, built around 9 large humanoid robots between 1950-55 which became famous through local events, television appearances, magazines, and at Osaka’s Japan World Expo in 1970. Since then they’ve been asleep inside an old warehouse in Yubari, Hokkaido, and only recently rediscovered.
The Kanagawa Institute of Technology’s (KAIT) Department of Mechatronics is busy restoring the robots to working condition, and will be showcasing them in all their glory at Japan Robot Festival 2009 in Toyama. Following that, they will be displayed in art galleries and museums around the country as budget allows. The restoration project is attempting to use original parts where possible, though procuring working vacuum tubes and the like isn’t easy.
Amazingly, Dr. Aizawa was friends with the founder of SONY, Masaru Ibuka, and the creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, with whom he established the Children’s Institute for Cultural Activities Foundation in 1927. Their ideal of improving the welfare of children through scientific toys led Dr. Aizawa to create 800 humanoid robot toys. He even trademarked the term “robot” in 1934 in Japan, though the term was actually invented by Karl Capek for his 1920 play Rossum’s Universal Robots, and later grew in prominence thanks to sci-fi magazines like Amazing Stories (1926) and Fritz Lang’s classic film Metropolis (1927). Images and a video of the working bots after the break.
[source: Impress Robot Watch]
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