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• Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift

developed & published by Square-Enix / 2008.06.24
1 player / 2 save slots / Flash ROM / Nintendo DS

Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is another installment in Square-Enix’s turn-based strategy role-playing franchise.  As expected it shares more in common with its GameBoy Advance predecessor than the PlayStation game (now available on the PSP and iPhone).  It’s one of the best examples of its genre, but it requires a big commitment.

Taking a page from The Neverending Story, a young boy named Luso is transported to the fantasy world of Ivalice when, during detention at the school library, he opens a magical book.  What follows is a simple story that can be kept on the back-burner as you complete literally hundreds of optional quests – some of which have multiple episodes that form little side stories.  It’s a good enough excuse to spend hours steeped in tactical battles, but I do wish they’d return to the darker atmosphere of the earlier Tactics games.

Famibot Watches Your House While You’re Away

This week the IFA 2012 is being held in Berlin, Germany, and consumer electronics products from around the world are being shown there.  Among the robotic set are some household robots from Chinese manufacturer ECOVACS that has been marketing its own line of Roomba-like vacuum cleaners since the year 2000.  Their vacuum robots cost between $270~$470 USD depending on the model.

Winbot is a two-piece window cleaning robot that (similar to the Windoro) uses magnets to cling together on either side of a pane of glass.  It then follows a zig-zag motion and uses a combination of cleaning solution and three sets of micro-fiber scrubbers to clean the window.  However, unlike the Windoro which can handle a glass thickness up to 25 mm the Winbot is only good up to 12 mm (no thicker than 0.4 inches).  You can change the magnetic attraction by turning the handle until an indicator light says everything is optimal, and you’ll want to be careful because the user manual says the magnets are strong enough to crack or shatter the glass!  The Winbot costs around $400 USD.

Waseda University Opens New RT Frontier

Waseda University’s WE-R4 and iSHA on display

On August 23rd Waseda University, the birthplace of the first real humanoid robots, held the opening ceremony for the New RT Frontier (RT = Robot Technology).  The building is located in Nishi-Waseda, Shinjuku ward, Tokyo (about an 8 minute walk from Waseda Station Subway Tozai Line) and replaces the old RT Frontier building found near the university campus.  The primary purpose of the New RT Frontier’s first floor is to showcase the fruits of the university’s state-of-the-art robotics research to the public.

The building will be open to the public once a month (and will take special requests depending on the availability of the research staff), so you’ll want to plan ahead.   The main attraction will likely be the humanoid robots designed to assist the elderly and disabled in a super-aging society, including several we have covered on this website (such as iSHA).  However there are several other (some might say less glamorous) examples of robotic rehabilitation equipment to view and interact with, including walkers, treadmills, and bio-medical tools. For example, a treadmill designed to treat patients with hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body, often due to stroke) can help train them to walk again with varying speeds for either leg.

Humanoid Robots Invade Hotel Lobby in Akihabara

From right to left: NAO, Gemini, and PALRO

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have positioned humanoid robots in hotel lobbies in Tsukuba and Akihabara.  It’s all part of a new study into human-robot interaction in public spaces, with the goal of easing society’s eventual coexistence with robots.  The robots can speak multiple languages and interact through chat, motion, and touch, and include the likes of Fuji Soft Inc.’s PALRO and Aldebaran Robotics’ NAO.

The main attraction of this research project are undoubtedly the Gemini robots developed at the university, which have grown out of a design project from 2009 and the TalkTorque robots.  Previously the Gemini robots were nothing more than conceptual models, but the pair have been upgraded with moving parts and wheeled bases (for mobility).

[source: Akiba Keizai Shimbun (JP)]

KIBO 3 Shown At Korea’s National Science Museum

This is one of the better videos of KIBO 3 from its show at Korea’s National Science Museum.  The robot (developed at the Korean Institute of Science and Technology’s Center for Intelligent Robotics) walks, talks, imitates gestures, makes funny faces, and dances.


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[source: KIST CIR @ YouTube]

Videos: 2nd KURATAS Interview and More

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been doing some site clean-up involving older posts with missing or broken videos, and we’ve still got a long way to go before everything is the way it should be.  Unfortunately quite a few earlier posts had videos hosted through Gametrailers, where I began blogging about robots before this site was created.  I didn’t mirror those videos onto YouTube, and they recently disappeared when Gametrailers revamped their entire website.  As I was looking through some of these older posts I also noticed some other videos have gone missing too.  That’s because I will often link directly to the original video rather than create a mirror, and if someone decides to take down the video the post gets broken.  This general maintenance should be out of the way later this month, so we should be back to posting more regularly soon.

Watch 20 Hobby Robots Compete in 4.5 m Footrace

Iketomu, a Japanese blogger who writes Biped Robot News Japan (and is himself a hobby roboticist), has posted a fantastic video from the 21st ROBO-ONE competition.  It took place at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) in Tokyo on September 1st and 2nd, 2012, and the following video shows 20 of the participating robots competing in a 4.5 meter (14 feet 9 inches) footrace.


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The robots in order of appearance: No1: R-blue, No2: Afuro, No3: Metallic Fighter, No5: BJ ASURA, No6: Takarobo, No7: Nagare-Gold, No8: Leghorn, No9: Tokotoko-Maru, No10: Ganbatter, No11: Ryuketsu-kamen, No12: Ryuki ⅡO, No13: Zakyou-Hai, No14: Pi-co, No15: Hosenka, No16: Garoo, No17: Akakaze, No18: Ginkaji, No19: August, No20: Arutemis.

[source: Biped Robot News Japan] & [Iketomu @ YouTube]

• Robot and Frank

Robot and Frank generated some buzz at the Sundance Film Festival, and I’m happy to report that it wasn’t just hype. It’s a genuinely entertaining character study set in the next 50 years that manages to be both funny and surprisingly touching. And while it is a relatively small independent film you wouldn’t know it from the cast, which includes recognizable stars Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, and Liv Tyler (with Peter Sarsgaard providing the voice for the titular robot).  Langella is a perfect fit for the part, and if you’re sick of the tiresome trope of the killer robot you’ll find the film’s premise totally refreshing.

As a younger man Frank was a cat burglar, and even though he’s well over the hill old habits die hard. The problem is his memory ain’t what it used to be, and with his independence quickly deteriorating his son Hunter brings him the latest in assistive robot technology.

As might be expected, Frank is none too thrilled about the prospect of a robot babysitter. The VGC-60L humanoid is about the size of a child and speaks with a neutral voice a bit like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In appearance it looks less impressive technically than Honda’s ASIMO – boxier and rougher around the edges – more akin to the Russian humanoids Arne and Arnea.