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• HOAP-3

HOAP3-headersmIn July of 2005, two years after developing the HOAP-2, Fujitsu released the last in their line of research robots.  The HOAP-3 grew slightly taller to a height of 60cm (just shy of two feet), weighed 8.8kg (19.4 lbs), had a smoother shape, and further expanded its joints to a total of 28 (2 legs x6, 2 arms x5, 2 hands x1, torso x1, neck x3).  One additional joint was added to the wrists on both arms, and another was added to the neck.

Unlike previous models, a head equipped with stereo cameras came standard, based on the Mi-Ro.  The opening at the top of its head contained a microphone and distance sensor, while the speaker was located just below its neck.  The speech recognition and synthesis interface developed for the HOAP-2 was included with this version.

Although it’s impossible to confirm this, it appears that Fujitsu was attempting to create a platform that could closely match the performance of the SONY QRIO.  The basic body configuration is nearly identical, though their are major differences.  To begin with, Fujitsu adopted RT-Linux as its primary operating system, while SONY went with their proprietary APERIOS, running the OPEN-R SDK that had grown out of their AIBO line. The QRIO also had five individually actuated fingers per hand (bringing its total degrees of freedom to 38), and it had more microphones and touch sensors in its body.  Both robots made use of their respective company’s proprietary servos.  Despite these differences, it’s interesting to think that applications developed for the HOAP-3 could have been ported to the QRIO for home use had it been commercialized.  It’s also possible that Fujitsu would have sold a domestic version had development continued.

HOAP-3 playing Pong against a human

For example, the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) was responsible for a number of fun projects that made use of the HOAP-3.  They programmed the HOAP-3 to taunt its human opponents while playing the arcade version of Pong, as well as to draw portraitscook an omelet, and SAVE THE WORLD.

To draw the portraits, the robot would take an image using its cameras and use an algorithm to detect the edges.  It would then sketch out the resulting image not like a printer (from top to bottom) but in a more naturalistic style.  It could also write the subject’s name.  The HOAP-3 was used to study bipedal walking, neural networks, central pattern generators, genetic algorithms, kinesthetic learning, and motion-capture imitation.

By Fujistu’s own estimates, only 20-30 HOAP units were commissioned in 2004, and later it was announced that they had sold a total of 70 units.  How that figure breaks down across the three versions of the robot is unclear, but they are still being used in labs around the world.  The resulting price of $50,000 USD means the HOAP robots would never see life outside of laboratories, though used units have since appeared for sale on auction sites for around $5,000 USD (see here).

Fujitsu Automation, the branch of the company responsible for building the HOAP series, has since changed to Miyachi Systems, and sadly it appears they no longer maintain a webpage for the robots.

Video (HOAP-3 plays Pong):

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Video (HOAP-3 draws portraits):

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Video (HOAP-3 learns to grasp and move chess pieces):

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Video (HOAP-3 teaching through demonstration):

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Video (Various HOAP-3 demonstrations):

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Video (More HOAP-3 demonstrations):

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Image credits:
Impress Robot Watch | Fujitsu | EPFL | Akihabara News