Japan’s real life 4 meter tall robot project (the one by Hajime Sakamoto, not to be confused with the KURATAS) was demonstrated live this weekend at a Monozukuri festival. Monozukuri is a term which translates along the lines of “crafting things” or “manufacturing”. As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, Hajime Sakamoto has been crafting humanoid robots for many years. His smaller robots are the preferred platform by RoboCup soccer teams from Japan and Germany. His stated goal is to one day build a working version of the Gundam mobile suits.
For the uninitiated, Gundam is a long-running animated television series that is as popular in Japan as Star Wars is in the United States. The stories, which have mesmerized viewers for more than 30 years, revolve around military conflicts between Earth and its interplanetary colonies. The stars of the show are often the pilots of the mobile suits, which supplement the armies’ fleet of space ships. In recent years the series has been celebrated with a life-sized statue of its titular robot, but Sakamoto won’t be satisfied until he sees one walking. That’s where the 4 meter robot steps into the picture.
It’s not every Friday we can bring you a selection of cool robot videos, but this week we can! We begin with this short interview with Kogoro Kurata, the creator of the world famous KURATAS mecha. Having joined YouTube less than one month ago, his videos have already racked up more than 3,000,000 views. Now we get to meet the man behind the mecha, and thankfully the video comes with English subtitles.
Nico without his usual Yale sweatshirt
Nico is an upper-body humanoid robot developed at Yale University’s Social Robotics Lab, under the direction of Brian Scassellati (who cut his teeth on MIT’s Cog and Kismet). Originally built circa 2004 to mimic the proportions of a one year old child, it has continued to serve as a research platform ever since.
Nico uses a similar mechanical set-up to the aforementioned bots, with a simple head (featuring two cameras per eye for wide and narrow fields of vision), a pair of arms, and a torso bolted to a table. Microphones for speech recognition are placed apart from the robot’s body, along with a bank of sixteen computers used for image processing and other tasks. Its body (such that it is) has a total of 22 degrees of freedom (head x6, 2 arms x6, right hand x2, back and waist x2).
In 2007, Nico was touted as the first robot to recognize itself in a mirror. Scassellati referred to the trick as “this dumb simple algorithm”. Basically, Nico could classify what it was seeing as “self”, “other”, or “neither”. While it was not exactly the eureka moment it was made out to be in the press, it’s a start.
Robot Expo Korea 2012 attracted more than 20,000 visitors last week in the city of Gwanju. Around 1,600 students from elementary, middle and high schools competed in the 14th International Robot Olympiad. There were robot soccer, dance, and design competitions. In addition a trade fair took place where a total of 47 companies presented their products and technology, including vacuum cleaners, artificial fish, rovers, agricultural robots and educational kits.
To be honest there isn’t much to report, since there were few humanoids on display other than the Robotis DARwIn-OP and Robobuilder kits. However, one new guide robot made an appearance. It was developed by Junsung E&R (a company formed in 2005 that specializes in renewable energy technology), and bears a striking resemblance to a certain Pixar robot character.
Hm… Robots don’t appear to be the company’s strong suit. Not that it matters; South Korea is overflowing with simple guide robots as it is! A selection of photos is tucked after the break.
[source: Robot Expo 2012] via [Gwanju Info (KR)]