We all know the tale of Pinocchio: the plight of a wooden marionette bestowed with life who dreams of becoming a real boy. In recent years films like Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Takashi Nakamura’s A Tree of Palme have underlined the common threads between that age-old yarn and mankind’s quest to create a thinking machine, which goes back at least as far as ancient Greece (see Galatea). And so it is fitting that Hiroaki Kitano & Tatsuya Matsui (who would later form Flower Robotics) funded by JST ERATO (Japan Science & Technology Agency, Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology) decided to name their humanoid robot PINO.
PINO was originally envisioned as a standardized open platform for robotics in anticipation of the RoboCup Soccer Humanoid League. All of the details were freely available online (though the website has since closed), from its mechanical construction through to its processing system. The software was primarily Linux-based, and readily available PS2 controllers can be used for remote control. The exterior shell was modeled on the computer and printed via a rapid-prototyping process called selective laser sintering.
Despite their best efforts, PINO lacked the motor control that his contemporaries (SONY’s QRIO and Honda’s ASIMO) possessed, and for an open platform was still quite costly ($45,000 with the exterior body, $28,000 without it). Later revisions made with the help of Japanese technology company ZMP improved performance.
His whimsical appearance and personality, as highlighted in Utada Hikaru‘s music video ”Can You Keep A Secret”, garnered enough attention to make him a star. Various toys have been produced in his image through a licensing deal with ZMP, including plush dolls, figures, and a much simpler robot toy with interactive functions (sadly discontinued). A friend of mine from Japan gave me an inflatable PINO that stands 2 feet tall, and he’s keeping me company beside my desk as I type this.
- PINO World.com (JP)
- PINO Ver.3 @ ZMP (JP)
- PINO papercraft @ Robosquare (JP)
- Tatsuya Matsui’s Flower Robotics (official site JP/EN)
- Robot Heart (ZMP blog JP)
Video (without exoskeleton):
Video (Utada Hikaru’s Can You Keep A Secret?):
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