Panasonic has announced that on September 23rd a new robot designed by Tomotaka Takahashi (ROBO-GARAGE) will showcase the power of their new line of rechargeable Evolta batteries. Previously, robots built by Takahashi-san have set Guinness World Records by climbing up a rope at the Grand Canyon (2008), and for driving 23km (14 miles) non-stop at the Le Mans race course (2009), all on 2 AA batteries.
This time the challenge is to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto (that’s 500km / 310 miles!) along a coastal route known as the 53 Stations of Tokaido. The 53 stations will likely serve as rest spots, allowing the robot to recharge its batteries before moving on. It’ll begin at Nihonbashi, Tokyo and end its run at Sanjō Ōhashi, Kyoto. The new rechargeable batteries will go on sale on October 1st – and with the added coverage they should have all the marketing they’ll need. It will be on the road until December 1oth, 2010!
In the interview posted on the official website, Takahashi-san explains some of the problems that surfaced when preparing for such a challenge. To begin with, simply being outdoors presents all kinds of problems compared to working in a comfortable, air-conditioned lab. At Le Mans, they were able to clean the course of any debris that may have caused the robot to falter; this is the first long distance challenge, and they will be using public roads. There will be steps and gutters and it will have to handle steep slopes. Almost anything could become a major obstacle for a robot that’s only 17cm tall, including garbage on the street.
When it comes to the robot’s design, weight has a direct impact on its battery life, so lightweight materials must be used. At the same time, the materials must be durable enough to withstand the rigors of the road (carbon fiber, plastics, and titanium alloys were used). In order to be able to speed up and overcome bumps, the robot is encased in a hamster-wheel like cylinder, which also protects the robot from rain and dirt. The robot measures 15 x 40 x 20cm (width, length, height).
Despite all of these technical considerations, the robot’s appearance is also important. It must represent our cherished hopes for the future, yet because of the 53 Stations of Tokaido theme, it also reminds us of the past. So it was decided that the robot should look like highway travelers of old pulling a big, two-wheeled cart. Its color scheme is now green to represent the rechargeable battery’s eco-friendly technology (no memory effect, and they can be reused up to 1,200 times!).
Color me impressed, not to mention excited! I can’t wait to see the new Evolta robot design in action (looks pretty cool, doesn’t it?) and the route sounds like it has more than a few dangerous sections. Hopefully once this is over Takahashi-san will have enough time to finish his short film starring ROPID.