Kondo Kagaku is a Japanese company that makes and sells everything you need to make a working humanoid robot, from full DIY kits to individual parts. Their best selling humanoid robot kit, the KHR series, is by far the most popular among Japanese hobbyists. While visiting Japan, the KHR-1 even impressed Bill Gates so much that he formed a robotics division at Microsoft which has created the Microsoft Robotics Studio software. Much in the same way that home computers originally belonged to the hobbyists and enthusiasts, home robots are beginning the same way.
The KHR-1 was eventually replaced by the KHR-2HV, which was then upgraded to the KHR-1HV (don’t get confused by the strange naming convention). The KHR-1HV adds stronger shoulder servos and extra hip joints to the KHR-2HV. Most of the robots you see competing in Robo-One competitions (robot wrestling matches) are custom built using Kondo components from these kits.
The standard robot must be assembled from more than 100 parts, and is programmed using software included with the kit. The Heart-to-Heart software allows you to manually pose the robot’s joints, and have that position saved as a keyframe in the computer. By assembling multiple keyframes into a timeline you can create motion files, just like in stop-motion animation. Because the robot’s joints are digital servos, they can communicate their exact position (angle of rotation) to the controller board. This is what allows the robot to perform precise, pre-programmed movements. With 19 separate servo motors to dial, creating motion files is time-consuming, hard work.
The robot can be controlled via remote control, and is compatible with wireless game pads (a popular option). You assign various motion files to the buttons in software, and by pressing the buttons the robot performs the desired motion. These robots aren’t sophisticated enough to be autonomous, but you can select a demonstration mode which plays predefined motion files without human input (such as dance routines). The batteries last around 30 minutes per charge.
The Kondo KHR kits cost between $1000 – $1500, and will require some skill to assemble and program. As always, the high price is due to the large number of servo motors. Optional parts like the gyro / accelerometer are a must, which help the robot maintain balance while walking. A word of caution: the latest version, the KHR-1HV, does not have English manuals. However, you can use the manual from the KHR-2HV for most of its construction.
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