Sunday, October 16, 2005


Technologically Pino is only mildly impressive, a cute Pinocchio for the 21st century, Its real revolutionary feature is the fact that it is the first open-source robot, a kind of robotic version of the Linux operating system. The brainchild of Hiroaki Kitano, Pino was conceived as a robot that would be accessible to everyone; hence it is made from off-the-shelf parts. More importantly, the specifications of the robot in terms of both hardware and software are freely available for anyone to modify and improve. In this way, Kitano hopes that the robot`s abilities will be advanced much more quickly than if it were being developed by a small group behind closed doors.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bicycling robot

Until this week, almost nobody in Japan had heard of Murata Manufacturing, a small electrical device manufacturing company based near Kyoto. But then they displayed their "Murataseisaku-kun" robot (literally, "Murata-manufacturing boy") at the interantional Ceatec technology show in Tokyo and the robot made national and international headlines. The robot stands about 50 cm in height and weighs 5 kilos. It can ride a one eigth scale bicycle with great accuracy; at the show it cycled along a beam just 3 centimetres wide. It can recognise obstacles and can go in reverse. The in-built cameras also allow it to follow the path of a line drawn on the floor.

The robot uses internal sensors (presumably some form of gyroscope) to sense and maintain balance. Gripping the handlebars of the bike also helps it to keep balanced. It can achieve a top speed of 2 km/h.

It took about 20 million Yen (100,000 pounds sterling, 175,000 USD) to develop. Unfortunately, I was not able to go to the show in Tokyo so I do not have a photo, but you can see a picture here.


I can't believe that I have never mentioned Honda's Asimo robot before! I have seen it a few times and it is very impressive. If you are in Tokyo you can easily see it at Honda's Aoyama Icchome showroom. Asimo is the fruit of twenty years of labour, much of it in secret, by researchers at Honda. The latest version is able to walk upstairs and over rough terrain, carrying its own power supply, a feature that renders it autonomous. It can also recognize and respond to human gestures and voice commands and even run (albeit very slowly).
Already, Asimo has become something of a celebrity; recently it became the first non-human to open the New York Stock Exchange and, in Asimo's native Japan, the robot has featured in advertisements for other Honda products. You can find out more about Asimo at Honda`s own pages here.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Here M-TRAN II is moving like a wheel. In the background you can just about see a model on legs that walks. The robot can interchange between all forms without outside control. You can see a very short video I took of a M-TRAN II walking here. As the video ends you can see the robot being put on its back. In response it simply inverts its legs! More about M-TRAN II will feature in my book.


M-TRAN II is built by researchers at AIST in Japan.

In many ways, MTRAN i's simplicity coalition`t be further from the complex humanoid designs of many of today`s cutting-edge robots but its modular design and flexibility make it, in many ways, the most impressive robot of them all.
MTRAN II is a modular robot, designed from small, simple parts, and has an amazing ability to change its shape. MTRAN can be happily walking on four legs like a dog when it encounters a gate, the only way through being a small clearance between the gate and the ground. At this point, MTRAN II can change shape, becoming long and snakelike to wriggle through the hole before transforming again at the other side. When miniaturization technology shrinks its components by hundreds or thousands of times, it is interesting to imagine what truly amazing feats MTRAN II may be capable of. Here we see it locomotion like an inchworm.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Not a Transformer!

It looks like a Transformer - but it`s real! This is the t-musk T-52. It designed to be a rescue robot with those huge arms for clearing away rubble from collapsed building or wreckage from a car crash. In fact it is, stricty speaking, not a robot at all as it does not act autonomously but is tele-operated. However, it is sobering to think that one day, with the right AI software one of these things may be rescuing you from a burning vehicle without any human intervention! I am not sure whether to include this machine in my robot book. As always, if you have any requests for robots to be included in the book or just to voice your interest in the book (to make sure I can get a publisher) please leave a comment.