Bioengineering and robotics professor Kazuhiro Kosuge may not look like it at first glance, but inside all he dreams of is dancing like the stars across a beautiful night sky. He and a team of researchers at Tohoku University have solved the age-old quandary of rejection at the dance floor with the PBDR (Partner Ballroom Dance Robot), which made TIME’s list of best inventions in 2005.
The PBDR rolls around on three wheels concealed under her pink or blue gown, and while she lacks dancing legs (which would be even more impressive) she can follow a male dancer’s lead in true ballroom dancing fashion. The PBDR was developed as a platform for realizing effective human-robot coordination with physical interaction.
Underneath the glossy 5ft 5in exterior (including a face modeled after Marilyn Monroe wearing — are those Mickey Mouse ears?!) is a cold, hard, mechanical skeleton fitted with upper-body sensors that allow it to predict its partners next steps. The robot debuted at the Aichi World Expo in 2005, where it performed graceful routines for the eager show goers.
And for you ladies out there, the team has already begun development of a male version, which presents a different set of challenges: namely, the ability to avoid other couples on the dance floor while leading a partner through a set routine.
“By interpreting users’ movements to estimate what they want, care robots will be able to provide better service for the elderly who may be too sick or handicapped to give verbal orders.” -Kazuhiro Kosuge
Tohoku U. | Impress Robot Watch