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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).

Video:

• Mega Man 2

developed & published by Capcom/1989.06.01
1 Player/Cartridge/NES/GameCube/etc/Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console)

MEGAMAN2-HeaderIt’s easy to forget that Mega Man was a revolutionary action platformer back when it made its debut in the mid ’80s. A robotic hero echoing Astro Boy who defeats rogue robots created by a mad scientist, Mega Man had the unusual ability to assimilate his enemy’s weapon. Each robot had a hidden weakness that Mega Man could exploit if he had the right one.  Filled with a solid mixture of jumping and shooting challenges, Mega Man appeared like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky.

• Transformers

Transformers-header

I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t like Michael Bay’s movies.  Dumb science fiction sucks.  From the disgustingly bad Armageddon to the brain-damaged The Island, there’s only so much a man can take before writing off a director.  So despite being a child of the ’80s, having grown up on a steady diet of Transformers cartoons and toys, I didn’t bother making the trip to the theater to see the live-action Transformers.  I waited until it was out on dvd, and then waited another year and a half before finally finding the time to watch it. Did I mention I’m not a fan of Shia LaBoeuf?

Evolta’s next challenge announced: Le Mans 24hrs

EVOLTA-LEMANS-header

In early August 2009 at Le Mans 24 hours endurance race in France, Panasonic’s Evolta robot will attempt the longest distance traveled by a radio-controlled car.  If successful, this will be the 2nd World Record earned by the robot, alongside its climb of the Grand Canyon in 2008.

Evolta was originally designed for rope climbing, so to perform an endurance race has required a complete redesign.  Many design options were considered, from the motors to the controls.  Should the car be remote controlled with an onboard camera?  What about a line following function seen in other robots?  Ultimately, it was decided to use infrared homing with the robot trailing behind a guide motorbike. Two videos of the new Evolta in action and more after the break.

Kentucky Fried Robot?

There are some mash-ups so unimaginable that they could only come from a mixture of Japan and a random Google image search.  Colonel Sanders gets a Neon Genesis make-over near Shinjuku station, and simultaneously rolls over in his grave.  I wonder if Angels are finger-lickin’ good, and taste just like chicken…?

KFC-EVA

[source: Three Steps Over Japan] and [More Costumed Colonels]