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• The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

1951-TDTESSAfter having watched the disappointing 2008 remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, I owed it to myself to watch the original, an understated black and white thinking-man’s science fiction film.  I like to think the special effects were dazzling to audiences in the early ’50s, but there’s no denying they look quaint by today’s standards.  But that’s not really the point, which was sorely missed by the people who made the remake.  The world was only just recovering from World War 2, and the threat of annihilation by atom bomb was crystallizing into the Cold War.

This led the screenwriters to imagine what could prevent us from destroying ourselves, and their answer is the appearance of an alien.  An alien named Klaatu sent to earth to warn us that if we continue behaving badly, we’ll only end up destroying ourselves, or be destroyed by giant peace-keeping robots.  It’s a story of first contact, and how people might react to such a situation, and it does an ok job of showing us.

• HOAP-1

HOAP1-headerFujitsu has designed a standard research platform for universities and businesses called HOAP (Humanoid for Open Architecture Platform).  Built to order, the HOAP series of robots are produced using custom, state-of-the-art parts and are controlled using a Central Pattern Generator (CPG) network, which simulates the neural oscillator found in earthworms and lampreys.  Researchers write custom programs and test them using the robot’s various systems.

Take-G’s Wonderful Woodbots

fujin-raijin03Takeji Nakagawa is an artist and crafstman who creates stunning works of art using the traditional handicraft process known as yosegi-mokuzougan (joined wooden block construction).  Four types of wood (keyaki, teak, walnut, and white ash) are cut to size, slotted together, glued, and lathed.  His subjects sometimes include robots, which represent the future to him.

The resulting sculptures have a smooth surface and simple, flowing lines that reveal the natural beauty of each material’s distinct color and texture.  Each exquisitely detailed piece is hand-made, sold only at exhibitions and galleries with prices between $1000 ~ $6000.  These aren’t toys – they’re art – priced to reflect their quality, rarity, and uniqueness.

Mr. Nakagawa also creates wooden block toys and animals for children, which he sells on his website.  You can view examples of his work and process through his official site and blog, some of which is in English, in which he talks about his work and inspirations.  I highly recommend you check it out.

• Genibo

GENIBO-headerDasatech’s Genibo (Genius Robot) is one of a handful of Aibo knock-offs, but after seeing some footage of it in action from the recent Robot World expo held in Seoul, I felt it warranted closer inspection. In all the Genibo has 17 loud servo motors which bring it to life, stands about 30cm (12 inches) tall and weighs 1.5kg (3.3 lbs).  It lasts close to 2 hours on a single charge. It’s also quite loud compared to an Aibo.

Like the Aibo, Genibo has a camera in its nose which can send photos to your cellphone or computer, touch sensors in its head and back that enable it to respond when you pet him, and tilt sensors so it knows if it has fallen on its side or back. It has speech recognition capable of understanding 100 commands (Korean only), and it can repeat simple phrases that it has learned such as phone numbers or your schedule.

Plastic Pals featured on G4’s Attack of the Show

What a great way to end the first month of posts.  Most likely thanks to Engadget featuring the ASIMO / HRP-2 Promet entry (here). Thanks for featuring the site!


[source: G4’s Attack of the Show]

• Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand

developed & published by Konami/2003.09.13
1 Player (2-4 link battle)/Cartridge, w/ built-in solar sensor/GBA


“In a place not too far from here and now, the end of the world approaches.

The Undead appear, breaking the natural cycle of life and death.
The evolution of species ceases, and one by one they become extinct…”

Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand is the brainchild of master game designer Hideo Kojima (creator of Metal Gear): a vampire-slaying quest-adventure in the vein of Zelda with the hide-and-sneak shooting action of Metal Gear.  This alone makes Boktai fun but what makes it great (as the title suggests) is the added unpredictable element of the sun.

Attack of the Clones


After SONY made a huge splash with AIBO, their robot pooch, companies around the world tried to cash-in on the robo-dog craze. Some of the clones were decent, but most were downright terrible. This is a list of just a few of them.

• R100


NEC’s R100 is a partner robot – designed to be a household companion rather than just an appliance.  Development began in 1997 with the intent to bridge the gap between computers and people who don’t use them (young children or elderly adults) by means of natural communication.  This brought with it many challenges, including what the robot should look like.  In an attempt to keep things simple, initial designs for the robot were nothing more than an amorphous blob with eyes.  By 1999 NEC was publicly demonstrating the one shown here, which can visually recognize members of the family, understand simple conversation and words, and move around the house autonomously without getting lost or bumping into things.