It’s always a good idea to have robot guinea pigs if you can afford it. That’s why Japan’s Strategic HQ for Space Development is planning to send bipedal robots to the moon in 2020 before their human contingency gets there. A lunar robot is part of Japan’s military defense strategy—something that could end up being really important now that North Korea’s launching missiles over our heads again, and we don’t have a real human army.
Takara Tomy released the Robo-Q, which they claim is the smallest walking bipedal robot in the world, in February. They’re just 3.4 cm tall, and they’re super cute. Also, from the promotional videos and pics it looks like they’re geared towards couples and kids, not hard core robokit fans. He can do things like walk around your desktop without crashing into things, or play soccer with his mini-robot friends. Do any of you remember playing with the tiny toy cars called Choro-Q? My brother used to collect them. Anyway, this is the sister brand of that.
Tonight in Roppongi happened already, but if you happened to have been there you would have seen the debut of this 7-meter tall aluminum fire-breathing robot called Giant Torayan. It’s actually the creation of artist Kenji Yanobe, and it’s part of an awesome art project that will transform the entire neighborhood into an alien robot-themed wonderland. (Image by AP)
Engine Oh G12 is a new transformer TV series that’s super hot in Japan right now. In this clip, a dozen normal-sized motor vehicle robots transform into an indestructible giant mecha with a 12-man cockpit. Even if you can’t understand what they’re saying, the visuals are amazing. Engine Oh G12 is actually part of a series called Engine Sentai Go-onger, and premiered on TV Asahi last February.
The smallest bidpedal robot in the world is Takara Tomy’s Robo-Q. Its magnetic feet move according to an infrared remote control, and it has sensors that recognize obstacles in its way. Its entire body is smaller than a human thumb, but tiny internal speakers make stamping noises as mighty as Gundam’s. It comes in two different models—retro and future—which is super cute because I was starting to think I would never have the option of owning an old school retro bot, but now I know I can.
It goes on sale 2/28.
This charming, dysfunctional robot won Maywa Denki‘s Baca Robo contest in 2007, and it’s probably because he reminds us of ourselves in more than one way—it looks like it’s in excruciating pain as it does push-ups, and after a while, it literally falls ot pieces.
The Baca Robo contest is an annual competition in which fun-loving geeks make robots that don’t serve any utilitarian function except to amuse, amaze, and entertain. The push-up robot’s sensibility is very Japanese, I think—it’s funny because his sole function as a robot is to do push-ups, yet he gets tired and falls to pieces if he does too many.
via Pink Tentacle
IEEE Spectrum has a fun and informative chart showing the world’s robot population by country. Robots are fast on their way to taking over the human race—there are about a million roaming the streets now, and many millions more in the making. Just a decade or two ago, they were practically non-existent. Think about it…
The UNIQLO SoHo store in NY will soon be the first Manhattan shopping venue to have humanoid robots walking around to help you find stuff. Wakamaru the Robot was created by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, with the initial intent of helping elderly people. He makes his stateside debut around the second week of September.
Link (Thanks, Brian!)
Roboticists in Kyoto take books-on-tape to a whole new level with this purple talking robot. Modeled after 10th century noblewoman Lady Murasaki Shikibu, she reads you her famous novel Tale of Genji via an internal MP3 player while making relevant gestures from her era to emphasize dramatic moments.
Toyota’s newest robot is a Segway-like transportation tool that called the Winglet. Weighing just under 22kg, it’s portable and compact and intended to help lazy people get around in airports and supermarkets just by leaning in the direction they want to move in. Call me crazy, but I’d rather be sitting in a motorized wheelchair than standing on this thing which makes you two heads taller than the next person and only goes 4mph. (The Segway is at least 3x faster.)
It will be a lot cooler, I think, when Toyota does what it plans to do next with it, which is to enable it to store shopping info or go back to a battery charging station on its own.
I have no idea why this company decided to use Scary Android Woman for their commercial. It makes me want to run away from the TV screen, but not to go buy bug spray that keeps a robot’s skin soft and smooth.
via Boing Boing
Need more company on your desktop? This USB-powered dancing robot will sit on your desk and do robot dance moves every time there’s action on your computer, i.e. streaming music, error messages, IM pings. If he gets annoyed or too hard core, you can just unplug him. 3000 yen on Rakuten.
Who needs human bartenders when you can have a robot pour your pint? Asahi has partnered with UK department store Selfridges to showcase this guy, who claims to be the world’s first bartending bot. It weighs a quarter of a ton, speaks with a British accent, and can snap open a bottle and pour you a pint with perfect precision. He doesn’t even expect you to tip.
On June 28, a man in Nagasaki was caught with a DIY Digg bot in his house. The robotic arm dugg more than 3,000 stories in 2 days through sophisticated story detection mechanisms. You can see it at work in this video. I don’t know why the commentator talks like a robot, too. It’s a little strange. Also a little strange that it’s illegal to make Digg bots. People rig Digg manually all the time. Besides, why do Japanese police care if he’s violating Digg’s user policy? I don’t understand, but maybe I’m missing something.
via Pink Tentacle
WoodBots are cute little wooden robot companions that will hang out on your desk while you work or sit on your dash while you drive. If you always wanted a Doraemon but he never showed up out of your desk drawer, this might be a good alternative. (You can just pretend your WoodBot has a magical door that will take you anywhere and a little propeller hat that can make you fly.)
Alexander Shen, the creator of WoodBots, sent me a couple of limited edition WoodBots to give away on TokyoMango. Yay. Each one is handmade and quite fragile, so I’m a little bit worried about shipping it. But hey, Alex got them to me safe, so I should be able to do the same, right?
To enter the contest, just email me your name, address, and a good robot joke with the subject line: WoodBot Contest. Winner will be chosen in a week. Thanks!
The first robot in the world was an Edo period miniature humanoid that served tea, circa 17th century. My friend Christine and I found a replica for sale at Maker Faire last weekend.So cool!
Fred Schodt writes all about this robot in Inside the Robot Kingdom,an out-of-print must-read about Japan’s robotics industry.
80 years ago, someone made this giant Buddha-like humanoid robot that can change its expression and move its head with surprising ease in order to commemorate the new Showa emperor. Some consider it the oldest robot in history—at the time, people called it a "manmade human." The robot was refurbished in Osaka last week after years of collecting dust.
The Stupid Robot Contest is an annual show held by Meiwa Electronics to determine whose robot is the silliest. There are just three criteria that a robot must meet in order to be entered in this contest:
1. It must be mechanical
2. It must be completely useless from a societal point of view.
3. It must make people laugh.
Pictured above is Papa Robopucho, a disfigured little box bot that plays the red-flag-white-flag game by himself, and then occasionally topples over and cries for help.
Some of the other contestants last year were a chorus of pregnant wife robots, a child robot that did push-ups, and and a "moe" robot dressed like a maid from a maid cafe.
Bacarobo.com via Impress Watch (Japanese)
A company called Cross Borders Inc created a fun little program that lets you generate your own QR codes—a 3-dimensional bar code common that can be read by cell phone camera. All you have to do is enter a URL, and the service dispatches an army of little robots that start off standing at random but quickly start hopping into position until they make sense together and can be scanned by IR.
This cute little bug-like robot is actually a universal remote control controller. In development by Toshiba, the 8-inch tall ApriPoco communicates with IR signals from your remote—and, of course, with you—to save you from fumbling with complicated buttons on the various control devices scattered around your living room. It’s similar in tech to voice-activated gadgets like GPS, except you can give it your own commands without having to memorize the preset ones.
The cuteness is intentional, too. Researchers are hoping it will stave off frustration of people who are otherwise impatient with dumb machines. Think Furby with a function. It’s like having a pet!
Link (Thanks, Sam!)