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A robot that automatically produces fun!

Years before the Odaiba Gundam statue, and the soon to be erected Tetsujin 28 monument, kids (in America, no less) were already having fun playing around giant robots.  From the advertisement:

A 19’6″, triple-decker robot gives children the thrill of their lives. Two tube slides give youngsters fast, safe and thrilling rides. Scooped ends slow down sliders and give them a lift thrill as they swoop off the end. Two-tiered robot “body” and lookout “head” have die-formed deck and steel bar walls for safety. Feet are designed with seat indentations so children can rest. The Giganta stands head and shoulders above most other playground equipment in size and popularity.

Ground Space: 19’6″ by 9’6″
Shipping Weight: 4400 pounds


hieronymus_bosch-HellNo offense to the designers, but if the play structure you’ve just designed looks like it would fit in perfectly in Hierynomus Bosch’s painting depicting Hell, you may want to go back to the drawing board.  It looks like it’s trampling a kid while reaching down to scoop up more with its hideous arms, only to devour them, locking them inside its grotesque, cage-like body.  Who had one of these in their neighborhood growing up?  This thing looks like a total deathtrap dream come true!

[Plaidstallion] via [WildWild]

• Driving Partner Robot

PIONEER-headerPioneer demonstrated a 15cm tall prototype robot at CEATEC Japan 2006 that sits on the dashboard of your car, envisioned as a driving partner to make driving safe and fun. The penguin-like robot has a camera inside its head which detects stop lights, street signs, and land marks and communicates with a larger system of sensors integrated into the vehicle, which send data to the robot.

When you get inside the driver’s seat, the robot performs a welcome song and dance by swiveling, moving its head, flapping its wings, and blinking its LEDs. When driving, the robot turns around to look at the road, and if it senses sudden braking, acceleration, or turning, it performs a gentle display with soothing blue LED lights. Some stops will send signals to the robot: the LEDs turn red when it detects a stop light, and blue when the stop light turns green. If a red light is ignored, the robot will swivel around and tweet to scold you.



Tatsuya Matsui & Hiroaki Kitano, with ties to SGI (Silicon Graphics Inc) both believe that a robot’s exterior appearance will dramatically affect how humans perceive and interact with them, including whether or not we will accept them at all.

SIG was never completed, but was designed with the rule of thirds in mind, an ancient artistic measurement which defines beauty. During SIG’s development, it was determined that the female body is roughly the right size for a robot to coexist with human beings. If a robot is too small, it will appear child-like which may betray its function. If a robot is too large, it will not be adopted by the public for fear of it overpowering the space it occupies. While SIG is destined to never leave the laboratory, she was instrumental in shaping Matsui-san’s philosophy. Since leaving SGI to form his own company, he has stressed the importance of outward beauty complementing the hidden inner complexity of his robots.  Had SIG been completed, it would have stood 168cm (5’5″) tall.


7th Wonderful Robot Carnival

7thWanderful00Iketomu, a Japanese blogger and robot enthusiast who maintains an English blog, has uploaded some videos from the 7th Wonderful Robot Carnival which took place on July 19th, 2009. For the uninitiated, it’s a Robo-One style tournament with several events that push the limit of the competitor’s custom-built hobby robots:

  • Dash 2000 (2 meter foot race)
  • Bottle Traction (moving a basket of bottles to the finish line)
  • Dice Shot (1-on-1 soccer with fuzzy dice)
  • Cubes (teams score points by moving cubes to their goal)
  • Rumble Fight (multiple robot battle)
  • 1-on-1 Fight

Dash 2000:

Doka Harumi (left) vs Sarga (right)
Video (Mirror):

Bottle Traction:

Kinopy (foreground) vs Kabura (back)
Video (Mirror):]

Many more videos including the exciting final match at:
[source: Biped Robot News Japan] and [Impress Robot Watch]

Osaka’s Matec Yao develops Recycling Robot

MATEC-headersmMatec Yao (Management & Technology Interchange Group Yao) is an organization formed in 2004 that gives introductory courses on electronics and robotics to everyday citizens with the goal of expanding interest in robotics and engineering in Yao, Osaka. They hold their own Robo-Con events where robot lovers get the chance to meet with other enthusiasts. In May 2009, they developed an eco-friendly robot to teach children about recycling called the Recycling & Environment Robot with the help of NAIST students.

Children can quiz the robot to determine what recycling bin a can or bottle should go in. You give the robot a recyclable, and after thinking for about 15 seconds it gives you the answer. It comes to a decision by squeezing objects placed in its hand, determining if the object is metal or plastic from the level of deformation registered by its strain gauges. It’s not always 100% right, since some plastic bottles have ribbing which makes them difficult to differentiate from aluminum cans, but the system tracks erroneous decisions to help improve the robot’s accuracy.

• AIBO ERS-110

ERS110-headerIn 1997, Sony’s Digital Creatures Laboratory began work on what would define an entirely new type of consumer product: the entertainment robot.  In May 1999 SONY launched the AIBO ERS-110 (AI for Artificial Intelligence and BO for robot; ERS for Entertainment Robot System; and aibo means “companion” or “pal” in Japanese).

The first production model was designed by the famous artist Sorayama Hajime, who gained esteem in the ’80s for his pin-up style paintings depicting chrome-plated female robots and scintillating women.   Although the ERS-110 lacked speech recognition, users could issue commands with a remote, and it had a camera in its nose which allowed it to perceive the world, speakers for auditory functions, and a touch sensor on top of its head to respond to a user’s handling.  The ERS-110 had 18 degrees of freedom, allowing it to mimic the actions of a real dog, all of which were controlled by an on-board computer with a memory card slot to expand its capabilities (sold separately).

• Ninomiya-kun

NINOMIYAKUN-HeaderWaseda University’s Information, Production and Systems Research Center (IPSRC), in collaboration with Kitakyushu National College of Technology and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, have created a robot capable of reading elementary-level books.  The robot takes its name from Ninomiya Sontoku, a beloved 19th-century agricultural leader who managed to overcome poverty through intense study, often depicted carrying wood on his back while reading a book.

Ninomiya-kun, standing 1 meter tall and weighing 25 kg, debuted June 11th 2009 at a robot trade fair in Kitakyushu, where it demonstrated its ability by reading Japanese fairy-tales from an ordinary children’s book.  The robot’s cameras can detect a vocabulary of 2,300 printed kanji, hiragana, and katakana characters, which it reads aloud via speech synthesis.  Eventually the researchers hope the robot will read books to children and the elderly, but in the meantime they are working to increase the robot’s character recognition and emotive quality.

The ability to read printed material has already been implemented in KIST’s humanoid robot Mahru, as well as iRobi-Q (a household robot developed by Yujin Robotics).

・Ninomiya-kun @ Waseda University IPS

[Yomiuri Online] via [Pink Tentacle]

“Dr.Robot’s” Vintage Robots Restored

Aizawa-headersmThe late Dr. Aizawa Zirou (1903-1996), the first director of the Children’s Institute for Cultural Activities Foundation, built around 9 large humanoid robots between 1950-55 which became famous through local events, television appearances, magazines, and at Osaka’s Japan World Expo in 1970. Since then they’ve been asleep inside an old warehouse in Yubari, Hokkaido, and only recently rediscovered.

The Kanagawa Institute of Technology’s (KAIT) Department of Mechatronics is busy restoring the robots to working condition, and will be showcasing them in all their glory at Japan Robot Festival 2009 in Toyama.  Following that, they will be displayed in art galleries and museums around the country as budget allows.  The restoration project is attempting to use original parts where possible, though procuring working vacuum tubes and the like isn’t easy.

Amazingly, Dr. Aizawa was friends with the founder of SONY, Masaru Ibuka, and the creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, with whom he established the Children’s Institute for Cultural Activities Foundation in 1927. Their ideal of improving the welfare of children through scientific toys led Dr. Aizawa to create 800 humanoid robot toys. He even trademarked the term “robot” in 1934 in Japan, though the term was actually invented by Karl Capek for his 1920 play Rossum’s Universal Robots, and later grew in prominence thanks to sci-fi magazines like Amazing Stories (1926) and Fritz Lang’s classic film Metropolis (1927). Images and a video of the working bots after the break.

[source: Impress Robot Watch]

Children’s Institute (official site JP)