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A Girl & Her Robot (Vogue Girl pictorial)

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• Tiro

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Hanool Robotics is one of several Korean companies trying their best to one-up the Japanese when it comes to the wonderful world of Mechnical Men. And I give them all the credit in the world for producing the world’s first robot to bring two human flesh-puppets together in robotic matrimony.

Not much is known about Tiro (created in part by the groom Seok Gyeong-Jae) apart from the fact it talks in a sweet, feminine voice and costs $215,000 to produce. Along with Tiro, other robots served as ushers and performers at the wedding, which must have been one hell of a party. In South Korea, couples can hold a wedding pretty much anywhere (and anyhow) they like, but it isn’t official until they register with the authorities.

• AIBO ERS-7

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SONY’s final AIBO model was the ERS-7, released beginning in November 2003 for $2000.  Three colors were introduced to market; pearlescent white, pearl black, and champagne brown.  With the release of the third color came AIBO Mind 3 software, which allowed it to understand Spanish for the first time (approximately 30 words and phrases), and speak approximately 1000 English words.  It could also download RSS feeds and read them to you.  AIBO Mind 3 also provided a limited short term memory mapping function, allowing the AIBO to remember the approximate location of its charging station, people’s faces, toys, walls, and favorite place much more quickly.

Some of the distinctive features of the ERS-7 model include: floppy ears and tail; the Illume-Face LED array which displays a variety of facial expressions and emotional indicators;  LEDs in its back, three IR distance sensors for avoiding obstacles and ledges; and several touch sensors.  Owners can load digital music files directly from a memory stick, which play through the ERS-7’s speakers as it dances along to the beat.

Book Review: Robot Journal No. 02

ROBOTJOURNAL2-headerWhile I was importing the previously reviewed RoBolution photo book, I decided to pick up another couple of magazines to go with it. Robot Journal No. 02 was published in 2002 and, as you may have guessed from the cover, I bought it for (what I had hoped would be) a lengthy section on SONY’s QRIO with lots of nice photos. I should point out that QRIO is my favorite robot, and this second-hand magazine was pretty cheap. That said, what I got was pretty underwhelming. There are a couple of good orthographic views of QRIO that can be found online in lower quality, but the rest of the images look identical to what you can find on Impress Watch’s coverage of QRIO from ROBODEX 2002 (see here, and here).

Robots break a leg on stage

Robot-Actors-headerIt seems like everywhere you look these days, somebody somewhere has made an artistic robot.  From painting portraits to playing music, robots seem to be making artistic strides that threaten to overshadow their human contemporaries.  Unless your last name is Schwarzenegger, acting like a robot probably isn’t going to get you very far in Hollywood.  But what if you are a robot?

Robot actors may seem like an outlandish idea at first, but it’s only fitting given the word “robot” was invented by playwright Karl Capek for his 1920s play, “Rossum’s Universal Robots”.  Could Capek himself have imagined that less than 100 years after his seminal work, real-live robots would take to the stage next to human thespians to perform for live audiences?

• SeRoPi

SeRoPi-headerKITECH (Korea Institue of Industrial Technology) DART (Division for Applied Robotics) is developing a service robot called SeRoPi (Service Robot Platform Initiative) that can fetch items and navigate in structured environments.  The version pictured at left is actually the 2nd revision of the robot, which was completed between 2005~2007.  Its appearance was designed by Andy Hyub (click here to see his first stab at the design, which was much less friendly looking).

Like KITECH’s female androids, SeRoPi doesn’t walk but rolls around on wheels at a speed of up to 2m/s.  It uses a combination of pre-programmed maps, a laser range finder in its base, and ceiling cameras to self-localize and navigate KITECH’s office space.  In one demonstration, SeRoPi is commanded to pick up a parcel from the lobby, which means taking an elevator down to the first floor, finding the package, picking it up, and returning to its origin.

Book Review: RoBolution

RoBolution-headerRoBolution is a Japanese photo book originally published in 2001, right as humanoid robots were beginning to appear in the mainstream media thanks mostly to Honda’s P2 and P3 humanoids in the late ’90s.  It focuses on 5 humanoid robots: Honda’s ASIMO, SONY’s SDR-3X, Kitano Symbiotic’s PINO, Waseda University’s WABIAN R-4, and E-sys Aoyama Gakuin University’s Mk.5.  The majority of the photos from this book cannot be found online – and the shots of the SDR-3X in particular are hard to come by in such high quality.  They even revealed the often veiled single camera in the SDR-3X’s forehead which really can’t be seen in most photos I’ve seen on the net.  Besides photos there are also orthographic schematic drawings with specs, examples of prototypes, and interviews (in Japanese).

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.