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• Archie

ARCHIE-headerThe University of Manitoba, Canada, and The Vienna University of Technology, Austria, is showing off the product of 4 years of research into robotics, nicknamed “Archie”, which appears to be a cry for help.

It would be too easy for me to sit back and berate this ugly monstrosity for what it is.  The fact is, this robot was probably built on a budget that is less than what I spend at Starbucks in a year, and I don’t drink coffee.  The lack of proper funding for robotics is a rampant  scourge throughout the Western hemisphere, so we shouldn’t be surprised that our colleagues in Asia make all the cool looking robots, while we’re left to decapitate dolls for spare parts.  Although in hindsight, I think even a cardboard box with a smiley face drawn on it might have been a better choice for a head…   (click the image for a bigger version, if you dare).  Did they think this would be funny?  Because it’s not.  It’s just sad.  They should be embarrassed.

Hopefully, with the recent announcement of HUBO 2 being brought to America thanks to generous NSF funding, we’ll see less of these terrible robots in the future.  Pathetic videos after the break.

[Reuters] via [Dvice] via [Botjunkie]




• WonderBorg

WBORG-headersmBandai’s WonderBorg is a bug-like hexapod that you control with your WonderSwan. The WonderSwan was a Japan-only portable that lost the handheld war against the Gameboy Advance after briefly securing a sizable user-base during the late Gameboy Color years thanks to Square-Enix’s ports of Final Fantasy 1 and 2. The Wonderswan system was designed in part by the late Gunpei Yokoi, who had left Nintendo after the VirtualBoy fiasco.

The WonderBorg, which is an offshoot of Kyohritsu’s Wonder Kit line of hobby robot kits, has moving limbs which can be swapped out for cup-like wheels. You use the WonderSwan’s buttons to guide its movement. Bandai also made a version for the PC. When its antennae contact an obstacle, the WonderBorg will automatically back up and try to move in a different direction. The PC Version can hone in on a transmitter or another WonderBorg for an impromptu wrestling match.

AIST’s HRP-4C dons wedding dress

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AIST’s latest humanoid robot, the feminine HRP-4C, donned a wedding dress for a fashion show.  One only wonders: where’s the robot groom?  The realistic human head was made by Kokoro, which previously created other realistic robots called Actroids.  AIST is no stranger to entertainment robots, having created robot dinosaurs in the past.

[sources: Daum, Pink Tentacle, Reuters]

Gigantor / Iron Man (Black Sabbath) Mash-up

• 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.