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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.

Book review: ROBOCON Magazine No.28

ROBOCON28-headerAlong with Robot Journal No. 02, I imported a copy of ROBOCON Magazine No.28, which covers ROBODEX 2003.  Again, the reason was purely out of my love for SONY’s abandoned QRIO project.  ROBOCON Magazine has quite a following so I assumed it would be good but I was in for another disappointment – the problem with print is it doesn’t have much to offer that you can’t get online for free.

As was the case with Robot Journal No. 02, Impress Watch’s coverage of ROBODEX 2003 provides much more insight into the event, and has more media to sink your teeth into (see here).  You can also find English research papers relating to QRIO with a quick Google search that will provide more technical information than you could want.  I have no idea what other issues of the magazine are like, but if I had to guess ROBOCON seems focused on individual robot projects and gives detailed how-to articles and stuff by builders competing at Robo-One tournaments.  That would be pretty useful for building and programming your own robot if you can read Japanese, but not so great if you’re just looking for some high quality photos.  I can’t recommend you import this one.

Evolta @ Le Mans 24 hours (video)

The first footage I’ve seen of Panasonic’s Evolta robot setting its record at Le Mans 24 hours in France.

Video (Mirror):

[source: Network World TV]

Tokyo University presents novel book-scanning system

TokyoU-Book-ScanningIshikawa Komuro Laboratory (the same lab that previously brought us the baseball pitching and batting robots) is now showing off another novel use for their high speed computer vision processing technology: book scanning.  A camera sensor running at 1000fps captures the pages as they turn, recording the text and images despite any distortion and lighting differences.  The system could be used to speed up the digitization process of low-cost e-books and other library data.

The camera uses lights connected to a synchronized control circuit and a laser range projector to estimate the three-dimensional page geometry.  This allows it to correct any distortion from the page being turned while at the same time flashing it with uniform, ideal lighting.  The 3D data can even be reproduced on a computer.  The system could theoretically be used for color copying as well, but the current quality of the scanning data still requires some improvement.  Google has been digitizing books and a system has been developed to automate page-turning to reduce the human labor component in this time-consuming, expensive line of work.

Perhaps Short Circuit’s Johnny 5, flipping through the pages of books, scanning them in mere seconds all while shouting, “More input!” isn’t so far-fetched after all…?

[Ishikawa Komuro Lab] via [Robonable]

The Big Picture takes a look at robots

In case you missed it, there are some nice photos over at The Big Picture examining the current state of robotics around the world.  Notice a difference between the US-developed robots and the ones from the rest of the world?  They may be more practical, but I’m not sure we need more war machines.  Should the US be investing so heavily in predator UAVs and the like that remove the decision to attack targets from a human’s control?  Should the US be investing in robots that distance the act of killing from the one pulling the trigger, turning it into a pseudo video game experience?  If you missed the last edition focusing on robots, check it out also.

[source: The Boston Globe] via [Gizmodo]

A Girl & Her Robot (Vogue Girl pictorial)


• Tiro


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.