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2010: Year In Review

Plastic Pals is struggling to expand its reader base.  Although we have regulars for whom we are very grateful, we know there must be more robot fans out there!  If you like the site, tell a friend or retweet an article you enjoy – every little bit helps!  2010 was a banner year for humanoid robots, with an avalanche of high profile developments from around the world.  We even got our hands dirty this year by participating in the design of a forthcoming humanoid – PAL Robotics’ REEM-C!

In Japan, AIST and Kawada Industries demonstrated their latest and most impressive full-scale humanoid, the HRP 4, and sent shockwaves around the internet with its HRP-4C dance routine.  Honda unveiled a previously undocumented ASIMO prototype (circa 1998-1999) called the P4.  Waseda University’s Kobayashi Lab unveiled their third-generation conversational robot, SCHEMA.  Toshiba presented a cute little waiter-bot called Wheelie.  Hitachi’s EMIEW 2 was upgraded with shock absorption.  Murata Girl negotiated a tricky S-curved balance beam on her unicycle.  Fuji Soft Inc. officially entered the humanoid robot wars with its own bipedal platform called PALRO, which is less expensive than most kits in its spec range.  The Osaka Institute of Technology developed a full-scale RoboCup competitor.  Osaka University and ATR developed a slew of developmental robots, beginning with M3-Neony and M3-Synchy and later unveiled M3-Kindy and Noby.  ATR freaked us out with its Telenoid R1 telepresence robot, and also developed the third version of their HRI research robot, Robovie R3, and a desktop version called the robovie-mR2.  ATR and Kokoro Co. Ltd. unveiled the most realistic female android yet, the Geminoid F.  Kokoro’s less realistic I-FAIRY brought a couple together in robotic matrimony.  FuRo demonstrated a hulking bipedal vehicle called CORE.  Tomio Sugiura’s original robot kit TINYWAVE became available.  Panasonic and ROBO-GARAGE teamed up for the third time, sending EVOLTA Traveler on a 500km journey.  A little twitter bot called CoCoNatch went on sale.  Last but not least, a new robot news site called Robo Times launched.

In the USA, Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN was revealed on video for the first time.  It appears to be leap-frogging every other humanoid robot with its dynamic balance and agility similar to its quadruped forebear BigDog.  The robot will be used to test the durability and effectiveness of chemical warfare suits, including the effects of perspiration.  DARPA’s ARM robot was revealed.  NASA and GM made headlines around the world with their Robonaut2, and their plans to send it into space for a stay at the International Space Station.  Honda debuted a short film about ASIMO at Sundance called Living With Robots.  Willow Garage loaned 10 of their PR2 robots to universities around the world.  Virginia Tech RoMeLa introduced its full-scale humanoid CHARLI-L and a new humanoid platform based on their RoboCup work, DARwIn-OP.  UT Austin and Meka Robotics created an expressive humanoid head called Dreamer.  Georgia Tech’s Healthcare Robotics Lab had Cody opening doors and drawers and giving sponge baths.  UCSD’s Machine Perception Lab got to work building a new cognitive development robot with Kokoro Co. Ltd. and Hanson Robotics called Diego-San.  Early in the year Dan Mathias unveiled his full-scale humanoid Atom-7XP, which he has been working on for 8 years.

In South Korea, KIST showed how two versions of their Mahru robot might serve breakfast.  KIST also began the trials for its educational robots, including the English tutor FR-i which became one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2010.  ED Corporation’s service robot CIROMI found work in movie theaters.  Researchers at Tongmyong University trotted out a new service robot called TUBO.  A new hobby kit was announced called Junimotion by Robotro.  Future Robot presented a female service robot called FURO.  The Presidential Residency welcomed guests with a number of robot demonstrations.  KUT showed its expressive humanoid K-EBO.

In Italy, the iCub learned to shoot a bow and arrow.  Switzerland’s Zurich University of the Arts created a social media robot called Kompott.  In France, INRIA Flowers created an unusually lifelike humanoid called Acroban.  In Germany, DFKI Bremen unveiled a distinctly feminine box-handling robot called AILA.  Team Nimbro won Best Overall Humanoid at RoboCup 2010.  A modular humanoid called Myon was presented.  Bielefeld University created a modular, expressive humanoid head called FloBi.  The German Aerospace Agency created a pair of walking legs called the DLR-Biped.  Pi4-Workerbot, a new humanoid factory worker was completed.  In Spain, PAL Robotics unveiled a service robot called REEM-H1 and we helped them design the look of their new biped REEM-C.  AISoy Robotics created a new robotic pet.  Francisco Paz’s TheCorpora announced an open-source robot called Qbo which looks a lot like NEC’s PaPeRo.  Iran got its first full-scale walking robot, Surena-2, as did Turkey with SURALP.

China hosted the Shanghai World Expo, populated with dozens of robots based on the expo’s mascot Hai Bao.  Shenyang Siasun demonstrated their Family Nanny Robot.  The National Taiwan University showed off a cute service robot called JULIA. Singapore Polytechnic’s RoboErectus Jr. got a very cool new design just in time to host RoboCup 2010, Olivia (a receptionist robot) made its debut, and KMUTT developed a service robot called NAMO.  In Vietnam, TOSY presented a new service robot called TOPIO-DIO.

While 2010 was certainly packed with amazing humanoid robots, we’re more excited than ever for what the future will bring.

We’ll probably post again before the new year, but in case we don’t, we hope to see you back here again in 2011!

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