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• Jaemi HUBO (aka HUBO 2)

JAEMI-HUBO-headerAs of May 2009, a 5-year, $5 million dollar international research initiative into humanoid robots has begun thanks to a partnership between KAIST (Korean Advanced Institute of Science & Technology) and Philadelphia’s Drexel University, funded by the NSF (National Science Foundation).

Researchers from The University of Pennsylvania, Colby College, Bryn Mawr College and Virginia Tech in the United States, and KAIST, Korea University and Seoul National University will be working on the newer version of KAIST’s HUBO humanoid (called HUBO 2).  First demonstrated at Robo World 2008, it is a sleeker version of the KHR-3 HUBO developed in 2005 and has been given the nickname “Jaemi” (a gender-neutral prefix roughly translating to “American-born Korean Humanoid Robot”) for its American incarnation.  Videos and more after the break…




• STD-ZERO

STD-ZERO-headersmHimeji Softworks’ STD-ZERO (STD for Standard) isn’t quite as attractive as its brother, JO-ZERO, but that’s kind of the point. This kit is targeting hobbyists who wouldn’t be happy unless they customized it themselves. As such, it’s 100,000 JPY (20,000 JPY cheaper than JO-ZERO). Battery and charger are sold separately.

STD-ZERO comes with 17 servo motors (as opposed to JO-ZERO’s 20). As such it is lighter, weighing only 680g (as opposed to 800g) and can operate for 30 minutes (instead of 20) on a single charge. It utilizes the same controller board and programming software as JO-ZERO, which allows users to expand the number of servos to 24, output audio clips (in .WAV format), and automatically generate walking gaits using the included Motion Generator software.

• JO-ZERO

JO-ZERO-headersmHimeji Softworks’ JO-ZERO is considered the “High Grade Model”, priced at 120,000 JPY ($1250 USD) excluding the batteries and charger. It was designed with three tenets in mind: it must be cool, it must be fast, and it must be humanoid. Basically, most hobby robots don’t come with an external frame (with the Manoi PF-01 being the most notable exception). So they decided to design JO-ZERO a cool exoskeleton that comes standard with the kit, and after many concept designs they landed on the working color scheme. It looks at least as cool as most of the Robo-One competitors I’ve seen in recent years.

The problem of speed is handled by Futaba RS304MD serial servos, which are used in both Futaba’s G-Robot and G-Dog hobby kits. The RS304MD’s torque is actually pretty weak at only 5kg/cm, however the servos have an outstanding operating angle of 300° which allows for highly flexible movement. They turn at a rate of 0.16s/60° which is quite fast, too. Naturally, the smaller and lighter a robot is the faster it can be, and JO-ZERO weighs only 800g without its battery – about half that of other bipedal humanoid kits. Generally speaking the JO-ZERO may not be the best for Robo-One style competitions due to its light weight and weak torque, however Himeji Softworks is planning on developing a new competition style that involves other activities, such as golf or baseball.

Himeji Softworks announce JO-ZERO, STD-ZERO

JO-ZERO-small STD-ZERO-smallOn July 6th 2009 Himeji Softworks announced their hobby robot kit venture with two humanoids, JO-ZERO and (the rather unfortunately named) STD-ZERO. STD is the abbreviation for Standard and not “sexually transmitted disease”. They go on sale beginning July 15th 2009.

Both kits come with proprietary programming software JOZ Controller, that can handle up to 24 servo motors.  And due to JO-ZERO’s standard body, users will benefit from the included Motion Generator software, which can automatically generate walking gaits.  During the demonstration, it took only 10 minutes to create a working walking gait, which is normally a difficult and time-consuming task.  Users will store motion data as well as audio clips (in .WAV format) on a microSD card (up to 2GB).

  • JO-ZERO comes with 20 Futaba servo motors for 120,000 JPY ($1250 USD)
  • STD-ZERO comes with 17 Futaba servo motors for 100,000 JPY ($1050 USD)

Himeji Softworks also has plans to roll out optional parts, and was showing off the “ZERO-HAND” which uses 1 servo motor to drive the gripping mechanism.  Although it is described as having 5 fingers, it looks more like the Robonova-1 grippers than the recently announced Crafthouse “GOD-HAND” extension (for Melissa), which really does have 5 fingers.  The ZERO-HAND will go on sale in August 2009, though no price has yet been set.

Toyota’s Partner Robot program: the next 5 years

On July 3rd 2009, Souya Takagi, the manager of the Toyota Partner Robots program, clarified Toyota’s vision for the next 5 years of robot development.  Toyota is not looking to make a mass-market impact immediately in the fashion of automobiles, rather they will gradually build up the market by providing for those who are in need of robots to help them in daily life (such as those who are disabled or in hospital).

Toyota’s Partner Robots are being designed to live alongside people in four main areas: for household help, medical care, personal navigation, and manufacturing support.  They have already developed robots that can play the violin, walk as well as run, robot service “dogs”, and personal mobility devices like the Mobiro and Winglet.  Starting this year, Toyota is embarking on a 5-year project developing robots specifically for life support, similar to NEDO’s current vision for robotics development.

Toyota-press-1

The plan is to first offer robots to the disabled that are a joy to use, by slowly expanding their feature sets layer by layer as needed.  The target market is people who are expected to have difficulty leading normal lives once they are discharged from hospital.   Field trials are being conducted at Toyota Memorial Hospital, where patients are already providing feedback.

[source: Robonable]

Crafthouse unveils “God Hand” for Melissa

MelissaGodhand-header

Crafthouse, the makers of the Melissa robot body kit, unveiled the God Hand at Kondo’s 5th anniversary event.  This awesome add-on gives the Melissa a proportional 5-fingered hand that opens and closes, with a grip strong enough to hold a pen and other light objects.  All five fingers are driven by one servo, which uses cables attached to the servo horn to pull the fingers simultaneously.  This is easily the smallest and most elegant set of grippers you can get for a hobby-sized robot kit to date!  Insert joke about strangling humans here. Video and more after the break.

• Evolta

evo-evoltaTomotaka Takahashi has done it again with Evolta, a robot named after the brand of Panasonic batteries it was designed to promote.  In the last few years Takahashi-san has gained notoriety in Japan due to his unique and colorful robots, which have popped up in various media.  This rise in recognition no doubt led Panasonic to the idea of a robotic next generation energizer bunny.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Panasonic’s Evolta batteries are the longest-lasting of their kind.  To prove it, the Evolta (a portmanteau of evolution & voltage) robot was designed specifically to climb a tiny rope – and what better challenge than to climb from the base of the Grand Canyon all the way to the top?  That’s no small feat for a robot only 17cm tall (6.7 inches) powered by two AA batteries!

A New Chibi-Robo game is on its way!

Nintendo has just released a trailer for a brand new DS game from Skip, starring our beloved household robot, Chibi-Robo. It’s titled Chibi-Robo! Happy Rich Big Sweep! and takes place in a new house with a new family to help out. No release date has been specified (update August 2012: sadly, this game was never released outside of Japan).

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