Japanese Roboticists Build a Headless Twelve-Year-Old Boy
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have been building a humanoid robot called Kenshirothat moves around with muscles that work with small pulleys.
Initially developed as a scrawny kid-bot in 2001, Kenshiro has been packing on muscle mass. With a total of 70 degrees of freedom, or axes of motion, it now has 160 muscles, with 22 in its neck, 12 in its shoulders, 76 in its abdomen, and 50 in its legs.
But it’s still designed to mimic the body of a 12-year-old Japanese male, standing 5 feet and 2 inches and weighing 110 pounds. It also has a human-like ribcage, pelvis, and spine made of aluminum.
Japanese Calligraphy Robot Uses Modern Tech to Preserve Ancient Traditions
One of the things that I love about Japanese culture is how comfortably it occupies both the past and the future, how its reverence for the tradition does not prevent a whole-hearted embrace of innovation and technology.
The Japanese often complain that sending e-mails and texts erodes their skills in writing the thousands of kanji, or Chinese characters, they learn in school. Some are maddeningly complex and, if rarely used, easy to forget.
But brush-painting kanji calligraphy is also a centuries-old art form. Keio University engineering professor Seiichiro Katsura has a way to help preserve it with his Motion Copy System robot.
The machine has a master-slave system that can reproduce brush strokes by a user with surprising similitude and subtlety. It uses a motion-capture system and old-school brush and ink to write beautifully.
Japanese Researchers Bring Augmented Reality to the Kitchen
Computer scientist Yu Suzuki and colleagues at Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan kitted out a kitchen with ceiling-mounted cameras and projectors that overlay cooking instructions on the ingredients. This lets you concentrate on slicing and dicing without having to look up at a book or a screen.
“Cooks can easily and visually understand how to prepare an ingredient for a recipe even if they have no cooking experience,” says Suzuki.
Suppose you want to fillet a fish. Lay it down on a chopping board and the cameras will detect its outline and orientation so the projectors can overlay a virtual knife on the fish with a line indicating where to cut. Speech bubbles even appear to sprout from the fish’s mouth, guiding you through each step.
If that is not enough, the kitchen also comes equipped with a small robot assistant named Phyno that sits on the countertop. When its cameras detect the chef has stopped touching the ingredients, Phyno asks whether that particular step in the recipe is complete. Users can answer “yes” to move on to the next step or “no” to have the robot repeat the instructions.
Giant fembots have set up shop in Tokyo and they’re drawing both Japanese businessmen and otaku geeks in droves.
Robot Restaurant recently opened in Kabukicho, one of the world’s largest tenderloin areas, with a gimmick that combines giant robots with sexy gals.
The establishment is selling out its cheap dinner shows featuring scantily clad ladies riding around on 10-foot-tall female humanoids, also scantily clad. From the waist up, the droids may evoke some of the silicone-enhanced girls from local hostesses clubs, and indeed they have actuators under those bikini tops.
Powered by air servos, the droid has all the idiosyncratic moves of Beicho performing rakugo, an art in which performers wear kimono and use only a kerchief and hand fan as props.
…it waves its arms, bows its head, and speaks in a gravelly voice like the master while narrating tales. Its mouth isn’t all that expressive but from far away, it’s hard to notice. The robot cracked up a few journalists at a press conference. It took two months to build and cost some $1 million, according to Sankei News.
[The Android] was unveiled as part of an exhibition that combines a retrospective on Beicho’s career with exhibits on cutting edge tech in Osaka.
Japanese Telepresence (“Telexistence”) Avatar Transmits Touch, Temperature and Vibration to Remote Operator
The TELESAR V’s hands and fingers are equipped with a number of sensors to capture and relay tactile information to its operator through special gloves. The primary sensor inside each fingertip is a vision-based force sensor which is comprised of a wide-angle camera that looks through a gel-layer mixed with thermochromic ink. When the gel compresses, the thermochromic ink becomes denser, which the camera interprets as force information.
Microphones underneath the robot’s fingertips convert low to mid level vibrations; when pouring marbles from one cup to another (as the robot), the operator feels the tactile sensation from doing so. Furthermore, the operator is able to sense changes in temperature at the robot’s fingertips, thanks to thermoelectric peltier devices which reproduce warm and cold temperature inside the operator’s gloves. Now even an object’s texture can be relayed to the operator.
Japanese “Driverless Driving” Plan to Go Live in 2020s
Japan’s Transport Ministry is about to start a project to create an autopilot system which would take over for cars on expressways.
The ministry envisages an autonomous vehicle system in which, after leaving your home, you enter an interchange of a nearby expressway while manually operating your car.
When pulling into the expressway’s lane exclusively for the autopilot system, you change your driving mode to “automatic driving” and input your destination onto the system. You would take your hands and feet off the steering wheel, gas pedal and brake.
You would return to driving on your own only after reaching an intersection near your destination. Until then, you would leave all driving tasks to the self-steering system, comfortably enjoying whatever activity you like.
The system is hoped to alleviate congestion by keeping vehicles going at a constant speed, while eliminating accidents caused by vehicles veering out of lanes.
A study panel will being initial discussions about the project this month, with an aim to have the system operational in around 10 years.
More than 40 years ago, Masahiro Mori, then a robotics professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, wrote an essay on how he envisioned people’s reactions to robots that looked and acted almost human. In particular, he hypothesized that a person’s response to a humanlike robot would abruptly shift from empathy to revulsion as it approached, but failed to attain, a lifelike appearance. This descent into eeriness is known as the uncanny valley. The essay appeared in an obscure Japanese journal called Energy in 1970, and in subsequent years it received almost no attention.
Designing Better Organs For Global Warming-Driven Desertification
How do you design a water bottle for the end of the world? That’s the question that was put to the team at Japanese design-engineering firm Takram, which has worked with, among others, Toshiba, NTT Docomo, and Toyota. Their novel response? Forget about the bottle and create artificial organs that could be implanted in humans to make their bodies more efficiently use what water is available should resources become scarce.
Robotic Omni-Finger Infinitely More Dexterous Than Human Ones
While the prototype in this vid just has one Omni-Finger, the final concept will include three of them… This will enable robots to arbitrarily alter the orientation of objects that they’ve grasped without having to set the object down, manipulate it, and re-grasp it, making grasping tasks as a whole easier andmuch more efficient. The only problem remaining is to figure out how to keep the fingers in contact with an irregular object as the fingers move it around, but the researchers are working on some creative ideas involving surrounding the fingers with deformable sacks filled with some sort of viscous fluid.