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.
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)]
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.
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.
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 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.
Another week, another robot video round-up! To start off with let’s take a look at an impressive arts and crafts project: a walking paper robot! Of course, Japan has a long history of making cool things out of paper: from traditional origami to the more detailed papercraft models, but this takes things to a new level. Although it does make use of some wooden shafts and elastics for power, we’re going to let that slide.
The Taipei International Robot Show (TIROS) 2012 runs from August 29th~31st this week, where 450 exhibitors from around the world are demonstrating their latest technology products and projects. Visitors can check out the latest automated guided vehicles, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, and hobby kits dancing in traditional dress, to name just a few.
In recent years Taiwan has been investing in factory automation robots and is gradually moving towards the research and development of service robots. Following the lead of other countries in Asia and Europe, Taiwanese experts believe that Taiwan’s aging population will need the added support.
However it is HugBot, a friendly polar bear, which has quickly become the star of the show. Made by Taiwanese company UrRobot, the robot hugs you for five to six seconds to measure your pulse. It is equipped with a microphone to detect when you are ready before opening its arms to wait for your embrace. The company says it could find a place in elementary schools, amusement parks, and children’s hospitals.
Around fourteen examples from Taiwan have been grouped together as examples of the nation’s prowess. One of these, from researchers at National Formosa University, is the Super Black Mamba, a biomimetic robot which imitates the smooth motion of a snake.Next year researchers will begin testing surgical robots for the first time, which are less invasive and thus shorten recovery time. A few more photos and a video follow after the break.
[sources: HiNet, Lihpao, (CN)]