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Goomba Roomba & other 8-bit robot covers

The iRobot vacuum cleaner got an 8-bit makeover at the SUPER iam8bit art exhibition, which featured hundreds of works inspired by retro video games. Artist Kelice Penney handmade the colorful covers based on the lowly Goomba (Super Mario Bros.), rock-spitting Octorok (The Legend of Zelda), and weaponized turtle shells (Super Mario Kart).

The Roomba’s erratic movements seemed to suit the aimless game characters perfectly. Unfortunately the custom covers, which proved quite popular at the showing, aren’t being mass-produced.

The iam8bit gallery, located on Sunset Boulevard, hosts group art exhibitions at their 4,500 square foot event space. The Roomba covers appeared at an event that took place late last year, but is making the rounds on the internet once again thanks to the video below.

[source: iam8bit Productions] via [IT Media (JP)]

• Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

developed & published by Capcom / 2011.01.11
1 player / 1 save slot / Nintendo DS, iOS

Capcom gets its fair share of criticism for milking its franchises to death, so when it takes a chance on something different it’s usually worth a look.  Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective certainly qualifies: it’s a totally original IP that puts a unique spin on the adventure genre, which has sorely needed some innovative ideas.

The player takes on the role of a ghost who’s spirit can interact with nearby objects, like a poltergeist playing tricks on unsuspecting victims.  You’ll have to use whatever you can, including your wits, to find out who you are and why you died.  The plot and characters are a big part of what makes this game special, so any further details would only ruin the fun.

Towards Intelligent Humanoid Robots – iCub 2012

Here’s a fantastic video about the iCub project and its goals relating to artificial intelligence.

via iCub @ Twitter

• The Legend of Zelda – Skyward Sword

developed by Nintendo & Monolith Soft, published by Nintendo
1 player / 2 save slots / Nintendo Wii / 2011.11.20

Nintendo returns to the Legend of Zelda series once again with Skyward Sword, and like every second game in the series this one does away with the usual antagonist and setting.  Nintendo has managed to create a fairly unique world for the game, with childhood friends Link and Zelda living in the floating island town called Skyloft.  The game begins as Link is about to compete in an annual competition to see who will become the town’s next knight.

Thankfully there are fewer tutorials to work through than in the opening hours of Twilight Princess, so it doesn’t take long for the real adventure to get started.  And unlike previous Zelda games, players have access to frequent save points in each area that should help make the game more manageable.

• Toyota HSR

Toyota demonstrated a new Partner Robot at Japan’s 39th Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition, which it has been testing at the Yokohama Rehabilitation Center since 2011.  The Human Support Robot, or HSR for short, is meant to serve as a robotic service dog for people with limited mobility.  It has quite a bit in common with the company’s earlier Delivery Robot (first revealed in 2007), though it sports several improvements and a fresh new look.

To begin with, the HSR has a telescopic body which enables it to raise its default height by about two feet.  It has just one arm, which has been designed to fold into its body to reduce its overall size.  When its arm is retracted, its body has a diameter of 14.5 inches, which helps it get around inside homes.  The arm has a simple gripper to pick up objects, and a suction cup which can be used to lift papers from the floor.  Its head is equipped with stereo cameras and a Kinect sensor for 3D depth detection.

The HSR could also function as a telepresence robot, thanks to a tablet dock on top of its head.  The tablet can connect the owner to friends, family, and health care professionals through Skype.  However, this feature may not get much use as the robot itself is controlled using a tablet.  That means the operator (likely the person with limited mobility) will already have a tablet on hand for Skype calling.  The user interface is made up of simple icons to move the robot around, while a video feed from the robot’s cameras is shown on the screen.  It seems likely the robot has a limited form of autonomy for locating and grasping objects, and uses visual markers to help it grasp boxes from a shelf unit.

Toyota has not revealed when the robot will be available or at what price, but it’s good to see they are committed to developing their Partner Robot line into a viable business.

[source: Toyota (JP)] via [Impress Kaden Watch (JP)] via [Gizmag]

• Away: Shuffle Dungeon

developed by Mistwalker & Artoon, published by Majesco
1 player / 3 save slots / Nintendo DS / 2008.10.30

Mistwalker, led by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, tried to bring something new to the action-RPG genre with Away: Shuffle Dungeon.  A mysterious force known as the Away has been kidnapping the villagers for the past 100 years, and our hero must rescue them from the many portals that appear in town.  The game’s primary gimmick uses both screens on the Nintendo DS to show two rooms, which alternately shuffle like a deck of cards every few seconds.  What starts off as a simple adventure ends up going in a completely unexpected direction.

• Kirby’s Epic Yarn

developed by Hal Laboratory & Good-Feel, published by Nintendo
1~2 players / Nintendo Wii / 2010.10.17

Kirby, Nintendo’s lovable pink puffball, stars in a game unlike any of his usual adventures in Kirby’s Epic Yarn.  His trademarked ability to inhale enemies and steal their powers disappears when an evil magician transforms him into a string of yarn.  It turns out this affliction isn’t without it’s perks, and Kirby is quick to take advantage during his stay in Patch Land.

A second player can join Kirby for some cooperative fun as the newcomer Prince Fluff.  You won’t need to worry about health, lives, or Game Over screens as these concepts have been abandoned.  Instead, the idea is to collect as many beads and jewels as possible to earn a gold medal in every stage, which can be tricky because Kirby drops them instead of taking damage.

Paro celebrates its 10th birthday with new colors

Paro has been certified “the world’s most therapeutic robot” by the Guinness Book of World Records, and is celebrating its 10th birthday this year with limited edition colors.

The robot, which was modeled after a baby harp seal, has totaled about 2,200 sales in its first decade (1,800 in Japan and about 400 in 30 other countries).  Only about 200 units will feature the two new colors, “Charcoal” grey and “Sakura” pink.  They retail for around 350,000 JPY ($4,500 USD), or about a thousand dollars more if you want a three year warranty.

[source: MyNavi News (JP)]