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Insanely realistic ASIMO costume

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Recently the costume pictured above, a prefab $400 ASIMO-like suit, has made the rounds on various sites. It’ll turn heads, but upon closer inspection it’s just not realistic enough to pass for a real robot. But have a gander at this one:

40-photo02Now this is what I’m talking about.  Yamamoto Katsura, an alumni of Waseda University, made this ASIMO costume himself, mostly out of wood. Apparently, one of the most famous events held by Waseda University is the annual Honjo-Waseda 100km Hike, which takes 2 days and typically gathers a thousand participants. In keeping with the hike’s spirit of pushing one’s physical limits, some participants decided to take it one step further by donning costumes as a kind of handicap. Pretty soon people were trying to one-up each other to see who could make the best costume, and the World’s Longest Costume Parade was born, with the hike’s organizers fanning the flames by handing out awards. More pictures and a video of the suit in action after the break.




• AV Mascot Robot “Bot-chan”

MASCOTROBOT-headerAt CEATEC Japan 2005, Hitachi displayed a voice-operated prototype Mascot Robot (nicknamed Bot-chan), an intelligent user interface for AV equipment.  Standard remotes are not necessarily the best interface for the growing number of television channels, their programs, and the ability to record and watch content on demand (TiVo).  Remotes have become increasingly complex as a result, only complicating things further.

Hitachi developed the Mascot Robot for quick and easy access to content through speech recognition, speech synthesis, image recognition, and text analysis technology.  The robot analyzes the user’s viewing history to effectively alert you when a show is on, record your favorites, and recommend shows you might enjoy.  Simply tell the robot (which can hear you from up to 2 meters away) what you’re looking for and it can find it for you.

Besides its cute voice, the animated eyes on its LCD display and the robot’s “rabbit ears” can move to help express the robot’s “emotions”.

• AIBO ERS-31L

AIBO ERS-31LAs its name suggests, the ERS-31L has a similar body to the Latte and Macaron model, but a tougher looking mug more akin to a bulldog.  It was released in May 2002 to mark the 3rd anniversary of the original AIBO release, with the lowest price yet: $600.  As part of the celebration, SONY took their AIBO Orchestra on a tour, where attendees could watch 9 AIBOs perform Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Interestingly, a study conducted in 2007 suggests that mechanical pets like the AIBO offer the same health benefits as a real dog for patients in long term care facilities.  Patients grew attached to the AIBO, which helped alleviate feelings of loneliness in the elderly.  Of course an AIBO cannot teach owners about social relationships, but in those cases where a bedridden hospital patient needs some companionship, apparently even robots are better than nothing at all.

• The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)

TDTESS-HeaderA classic sci-fi movie with strong anti-war themes made during the Cold War, updated for our own troubled times. Just replace the threat of all-out nuclear war  with climate change, ocean acidification, rainforest deforestation, and other depressing problems looming just around the corner.  Throw Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly into the mix and what could possibly go wrong?

A lot, apparently.  I’ve never seen the original but I’m familiar enough with it.  On paper, it seems like a great opportunity for a remake.  But that’s only if made to the high standards of say, Children of Men or Moon (the last truly intelligent and well executed sci-fi films that come to mind).  To say this movie falls short of its potential is a huge understatement.

• Robovie-nano

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Today Vstone, the makers of the Robovie-X and the Robovie 2000, announced it will soon launch a new hobby humanoid robot kit called the Robovie-nano. As its name suggests, the ‘nano is smaller than typical hobby kits, standing only 23cm (9″) tall and weighing a scant 575g (1.26 lbs). Compare that to Kondo’s KHR-3HV or the Kyosho Manoi PF01, both of which are 40cm (15.7″) tall. The ‘nano can also sport an optional exterior body which gives it a bit more character, as well as grippers which allow it to pick up small objects.

The standard ‘nano has 15 degrees of freedom with a parallel link mechanism in its knees.  That adds up to 1 DOF for the head, 3 per arm, and 4 per leg.  The standard ‘nano costs just $510, making it one of the cheapest hobby robot kits available today, and comes with the same user-friendly software and controller board seen in their more expensive kits.  This makes the ‘nano a fantastic entry-level kit while still giving hobbyists the chance to experiment with add-ons, such as Vstone’s audio playback and LED options.  Shelling out an additional $150 USD will net you a stabilizing gyro sensor and controller.

[UPDATE] Impress Robot Watch has published an article with more details.  The servos used are VS-S020 which have a torque of 2.2kg per cm – which are powerful enough for this design, but probably won’t be much use if you wanted to incorporate them into a larger robot.  Still, at only 1,500 JPY a pop, the servos are an attractive option for people looking to make a small custom robot.  A speaker is also included in the standard set, which will allow you to add sound effects to your robot.   One of the demonstrations coupled a HMD with a camera mounted to the head of the robot (with its own 9V battery) which allowed you to see through the eyes of your robot.

Video and more photos after the break!

[source: Impress Robot Watch]

Video from Incheon World Festival 2009

Icheon2009-giraffeAs reported late last week, South Korea’s Incheon World Festival is now underway. Aving was there to score some video of the educational animatronic animals and insects at the Robotic Zoo pavilion.  There are also displays of some of the robots being developed in South Korea, such as Yujin Robot’s iRobi-Q household robot, and Robot Soccer events taking place.

The robots don’t appear to do too much, but they are certainly a strange attraction that is bound to excite the kids, and certainly worth checking out in the video below.  Mr.Suguira, the creator of Dynamizer, is also at the event and has posted some photos on his blog.

[source: Aving News Network]

• REEM-A

Reem-A observes its surroundingsThe United Arab Emirates are equally known for their wealth and frivolous spending habits, with Dubai being home to the world’s tallest building.  It seems cutting-edge architecture is but one of their pursuits; with Abu Dhabi bankrolling Barcelona Spain’s PAL Technology Robotics lab to create humanoid robots to compete with those of other nations.

The REEM-A (named after an island off Abu Dhabi’s coast) is an advanced bipedal robot that can recognize people, walk around inside a building autonomously avoiding obstacles, recognize and pick up objects in its hands (eg. moving chess pieces around the board during a match), and has voice recognition/synthesis technology for taking verbal commands and responding.

• AIBO ERS-311 “Latte” & ERS-312 “Macaron”

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SONY decided to appeal more to the female demographic with the ERS-311 and ERS-312, released in September 2001.  They have a distinctly comical pug-like appearance, a much rounder overall shape, and even feature a horn-like lamp for expressing emotions (similar to one of the early prototype conceptual models).  They’re the only AIBOs to be marketed as a pair, with Sony even giving them cute names (Latte and Macaron) for the ad campaign, and sometimes referred to as “LM” models.  Latte is said to have an “adorable” personality while Macaron is said to be “mischievous”.