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Kobe’s Tetusjin 28 Monument shaping up nicely

If there was any doubt that the Tetsujin 28 monument is going to kick ass, consider this: his head is the smallest part.  The 18m (59ft) monument is being built in Kobe, the birthplace of Tetsujin 28’s creator, Mitsuteru Yokoyama.  Its unveiling in Wakamatsu park, Nagata ward, is part of the revitalization efforts that are still ongoing after the Kobe earthquake in 1995.  Located just a few minutes from the Shin-Nagata station, the statue will reflect the town’s building spirit.  It is expected to be completed in late October 2009.  Video of the statue’s construction after the break.

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[source: Impress Robot Watch]




• Mutant / AIBO prototypes

MUTANT-headerIn the first half of the ’90s Dr. Toshitada Doi (the inventor of the compact disc) was working at SONY when he heard that a competitor was going to release a housecleaning robot. Although skeptical of a robot’s ability to perform such a complex task, it led Dr. Doi to formulate the idea of a new type of commercial product that could take advantage of the recent advancements in artificial intelligence, micro processing power, and computer vision.  Of particular importance was the simulation of different emotions, which would allow an autonomous robot to adjust to its environment and a user’s needs.

As far as Dr. Doi was concerned, his robot didn’t actually have to do anything useful, which made pitching the idea to the higher-ups a difficult job. In AIBO Town (magazine issue July 2000) he explained his design philosophy:

If I think about what humans are truly searching for – though I am a little hesitant to put it into words – I believe it is love, healing, and relaxation. A computer that provides love and healing for people. That is AIBO.

Crazy animated music video

This insane animation reminiscent of Heavy Metal and Yellow Submarine is called “BIRDY NAM NAM – THE PARACHUTE ENDING”. I don’t know what’s going on, but I do know I like it, and this Steve Scott fellow is insanely talented.

Video (Mirror):

[source: Steve Scott] via [Reddit]

KAIST donates Human-friendly Welfare Robots

On June 18th 2009, KAIST’s Human-friendly Welfare Robot System Research Center donated Human-friendly Welfare Robots to the National Rehab clinic.  These include robotic wheelchairs and beds, as well as other assistive technology for the old and infirm.  The very friendly-looking little robot below appears to be a new model of the Steward robot “Joy”, which was developed as part of an automated bedroom that featured voice activated appliances.

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The director at National Rehab made a statement in support of robots at the donation ceremony.  “The Welfare Robot donation continues our research and development of rehab assistive technology, which will lead to the improvement in the level of the rehabilitation of patients, and  is expected to contribute to the rehabilitation industry,” he said.

[source: Paran]

Tokyo, time-lapsed

For me, big cities tend to feel oppressive for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their environmental toll.  Having said that, I am drawn to them for their spectacular scale, which promises hidden oases and secret sanctuaries from the bustle of the giant hive.  This video bottles some of the magic and mystery of such a place – enjoy.

Video (Mirror):

[Samuel Cockedey] via [CScout Japan]

• Moon

Moon-headersmThis past weekend I went to the movies, and it was for a good cause. I went to see Moon, which is classical science fiction that generally doesn’t get made these days. The trailer raised enough questions to peak my interest (though I don’t suggest you watch the trailer if you plan to see the film), and what with the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing, I thought what the hell.

Moon is clearly steeped in some of the great sci-fi films of the past, from its calm computer a.i. companion GERTY who will remind you of the HAL 9000, to the stark moon base setting that could easily pass for the interior of Alien’s Nostromo. Aesthetic similarities aside, Moon brings much food for thought to the genre, exploring different ideas that haven’t been done as well, at least not in recent memory, and all on a surprisingly skimp budget of only $5 million.

• Chroino

Chroino balances on one footChroino (a name derived from “to chronicle” and “kuroi” [lit. black]) is a diminutive humanoid robot designed by Tomotaka Takahashi of Kyoto University’s ROBO-GARAGE.  While conventional robot designs are obsessed with practicality, Chroino is a robotic work of art; a kinetic sculpture with a life of its own.

Takahashi-san wanted to eliminate the awkward walking style of robots, which tend to walk and run with constantly bent knees, leading some to speculate they desperately need to relieve themselves (take Asimo’s running gait, for example).  With his SHIN-Walk technology (lit. Silky Walk) Chroino walks more naturally with a smooth and steady swagger that earned him a spot on TIME’s list of Coolest Inventions of 2004.

One of the reasons Takahashi-san likes to create smaller robots is to dampen the public’s unrealistic expectations of them.  Chroino has a limited repertoire: he can sit up and stand up on his own; dust off his hands; take a few steps; and balance on one foot.  He can also kick a small soccer ball around – but he’s not much of an athlete.

• Iowa State University’s Humanoid Robot

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Iowa State University has developed their own humanoid robot to perform procedural learning.  Though the robot lacks a lower body and is therefore unable to move around on its own, it has two (rather large) Barrett Whole Arm Manipulators for arms, and a custom-designed head with stereo vision capable of simple emotional expression.  Its three-fingered hands are flexible enough to perform a variety of grasping motions, using fingers 1 and 3 as opposable thumbs when necessary.

The philosophy behind the research is to teach the robot the properties of its surroundings similar to the way a child or animal learns during early development, through direct experience.  The robot has already learned to identify objects from the sounds they make when being touched, pushed, held, and shaken.

The robot used a pair of scissors to cut the ceremonial ribbon for the opening of Iowa State University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering building, where the robot makes its home in the Developmental Robotics Lab.  Izaak Moody, an undergraduate in the College of Art and Design, is responsible for designing the robot’s friendly head, and has created some nice rendered animations showing the robot’s emotional range.  The previously posted robot Archie from the Universities of Manitoba and Vienna could learn a lot from this.  Videos and media after the break.

[source: Developmental Robotics Lab @ Iowa State University]