The Kuratas mecha (aka Vaudeville), an outrageous art project by Suidobashi Heavy Industry, made its official public debut at Wonder Fest 2012 this weekend. Built by iron worker and artist Kogoro Kurata (right, above photo), Kuratas stands 3.8 meters (12 ft 5 inches) tall and weighs 4,500 kg (9920 lbs).
Kurata has some experience building giant robots, having previously created a statue based on the Scopedog mecha from the anime Votoms. He was also involved with JFE’s project to build a life-sized statue of Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor), but had to quit the project due to various circumstances.
In January 2010 he built a vehicle for Castrol Japan that could kick a soccer ball at 200 kph (see here). It wasn’t long after that that he got the idea to build a real robot that could be driven by a human passenger, and by September 2011 had built much of the main chassis.
The researchers at the German Aerospace Center love their robot Justin so much they even spend some of their free time playing with it. Take this video, for example, of Justin performing the iconic dance moves seen in the diner scene from Pulp Fiction. Now if they would just connect Justin’s torso to that pair of legs they’re working on…
[source: Bram Vanderborght @ YouTube]
An android based on rakugo storyteller Katsura Beicho (86) was unveiled at a theatre in Osaka Japan, where it will perform in ten minute intervals for audiences from August 1st. “Looking at the various parts, there are certain similarities,” he said as he watched it perform, but was quick to add it made him feel slightly uncomfortable.
A total of 53 degrees of freedom were required in order to replicate the storyteller’s facial expressions and gestures. Its movements were based on those of Beicho’s eldest son, also a rakugo performer, who mimicked his father’s movements by watching a video. The vocal portion of its performance will be an earlier audio recording of the man himself.
The android, which cost 80,000,000 JPY ($1.02M USD) to create, was developed with the help of Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro (known for creating android twins of real people called Geminoids). Its appearance is based on a photo of Beicho taken nine years ago. Shinya Endo, a make-up artist and sculptor who has worked on the Harry Potter films, has been working on it since February. Kokoro Co. Ltd., an animatronics company, was not mentioned in the reports, but was likely responsible for actually building it.
[source: Asahi Shimbun]
AILA ISS shows off her new hands (image copyright DFKI)
DFKI Bremen’s humanoid robot AILA is being readied for work in space, thanks to 3.8 Million euros in funding by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Project BesMan (Behaviors for Mobile Manipulation) will run the next four years to develop the control software necessary to teleoperate robots in space. Specifically, the robot will mimic human movements of the torso, arms, and hands. Already AILA has been given a new pair of five-fingered hands which are much more capable than the fingerless pads it had before (they only picked up boxes, which doesn’t really require fingers).
Like NASA’s Robonaut R2 and Russia’s SAR-400, AILA ISS will be required to grasp and use tools as well as operate control panels. Although it will be teleoperated by a human on Earth most of the time, it will also need to perceive changes in the environment and act independently should the need arise. But the researchers are already thinking beyond the space station: the software will be designed to work with robots of varying shapes; from humanoids like DLR’s Justin, to multi-legged climbing robots. It could then be used to teleoperate robots designed to assemble solar panel energy stations on the Moon ahead of a manned mission.
In order to recreate human-like movements, the researchers are experimenting with a motion-capture system. Basically a researcher in the lab performs an action which is then simulated on the computer. The software will break up the movements into smaller segments that can be sent into space and used when necessary. “We must build systems that approach the capabilities of people,” says Prof. Dr. Frank Kirchner, Director of DFKI Robotics Innovation Center and the Robotics Group at the University of Bremen.
Although the initial investment may seem pricey, sending robots rather than people into space is much safer and will ultimately save millions.
[source: DFKI Bremen (DE)] & [DFKIvideo @ YouTube] via [IEEE Spectrum]