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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.


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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):
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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]