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SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 had Robots, too

SIGGRAPH is a convention normally focused on breakthroughs in digital media such as computer graphics and virtual reality. This year’s Asian conference, held in Yokohama, Japan (Dec.16~19th) also featured a booth dedicated to advanced robotics. Yuta Sugiura was there demonstrating Walky, his gestural touch interface for controlling humanoid robots or digital characters using an iPhone.

Kyushu University’s Tomimatsu Lab Graduate School of Design showed off Himawari (lit. sunflower), a sunflower-shaped robot that uses 80 custom-designed shape-memory alloy actuators to move the flower’s petals and outer florets (tentacle-looking things) in a slow and natural fashion.  The robot mimics the sunflower’s heliotropism but faces in the direction of people instead of the sun, using a camera which captures the bounced light from an array of 40 infrared LEDs.  Himawari was a finalist in the 2008 Asia Digital Art Award, interactive art category.

The “Advanced Robotics Lab” zone featured a collection of mostly stationary displays of robots, including: Takara Tomy’s I-Sobot (Robot of the Year 2008); Brionac Design’s communication robot Pul; Business Design Lab’s Mechadroid Type C3; ZMP’s NUVO; AIST, Kokoro Co. Ltd., and Kawada Industries’ HRP-4C female android; Tomotaka Takashi’s ROPID; and NEC’s PaPeRo.  PaPeRo was an interactive exhibit and comedian Zenjiro gave his pseudo-ventriloquist routine with PaPejiro.  Various iterations of Mahru and Ahra, South Korean robots co-developed by KIST and Samsung, were also present on posters and videos.

Unfortunately the intended collaboration between robots and scientists from SIGGRAPH’s usual demographic of CG and VR pioneers wasn’t entirely successful, with the staff on hand not very informed about them.  It would have been better had the engineers and designers themselves been on hand to discuss their techniques from the design concept stage, through to CAD modeling, ending with the actual manufacturing process.  This could then segue to the mechanical, sensing, and software properties of the robots.  Additionally, robots commonly use computer simulations and even VR in some cases for testing – hell, even haptic interfaces – would all be right up SIGGRAPH’s alley.  Perhaps these sorts of subjects, and not just the robots in display cases, will be explored at future SIGGRAPH conventions.

[source: Impress Robot Watch (JP)]

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Impress Robot Watch

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