I was asked about "Pino", so here is what I know - which unfortunately isn't much. I've included some links to Pino related sites on the internet, and have indicated when they are in Japanese.
The Pino project started in November, 1999 and working versions were exhibited as early as the following summer. It participated in both the RoboCup 2000 and Robodex 2000 exhibitions.
In February, 2001 Pino was featured in Hikaru Utada's music video for her hit single, "Can You Keep A Secret." Without disclosing any of the plot details, Pino plays a major role in the music video, and the ending includes a surprise twist. A larger Pino model was used for the video though an actual size working unit was used for some of the filming. The music video was released on DVD in Japan. Pino was exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art in March, 2001.
Technology from the original project was transfered to ZMP Inc. in June, 2001 in order to commercialize Pino. ZMP worked with a toy company named Tsukuda Original (related to Pal Box), and released three Pino models to the market, that I am aware of. There may have been more.
I have two of the three models. The largest and most functional model sold for about 10,000 yen (USD$95) which was out of my 'impulse buy' range at the time. The mid-range model, pictured above, is capable of walking about a bit and makes some noise. It's price, if I remember correctly, was under 2,000 yen. The low end model is basically a Pino doll figure with jointed arms and legs. It sold for about 500 yen, or so. I keep it on my desktop at the office next to my Lego Asimo model.
The Pino toys were rolled out in October, 2001 and were a "big hit" according to the company's press releases at the time. The toys were visible in the stores here in Japan for about six months. I haven't run across one in a shop in the past two years, though they may still be marketed.
Tsukuda Original was bought out by Bandai in July, 2002. A search of the Bandai website returns a few hits from 2001 and a mention of Pino on the Pal Box company history page (in Japanese).
There is a "Pino World" website (in Japanese) that contains a lot of detail and background. In that website, the last entry on the Main History section was made in January, 2004. The same website has a merchandise page that has links to other sites for Pino toys and books. The link for Pino toys takes you to the PalBox site. Unfortunately that site doesn't seem to have any current references to Pino. I also checked the book links but couldn't find any Pino books listed. The most recent entry on the "News" page is summer of 2003.
The Pino World website also has links to five videos showing the original Pino (not the toy versions) in action. The website is in Japanese, but you should be able to view the videos anyway. One word of caution - they are large Mpeg files ranging from 2.6 megs up to almost 9 megs - so they may take some time to download.
ZMP, based on their initial success with Pino, has gone on to develop additional robots. The ZMP has an English langage website covering their recent projects along with specifications for Pino Ver. 2.0 and some videos of a tethered Pino in action. According to their site, a bare bones version of Pino is priced at USD$ 29,000 while the complete version with skins runs USD$ 45,000.
Their latest creation, Nuevo, looks great - really cute and according to the specifications is capable of perfect walking. They have the Nuevo priced at USD$ 33,000 - way too rich for my blood, but I'm sure they will find some buyers. It's scheduled for release in late 2004.
Pino seems to have gained some acceptance as an education platform, and is featured on the Center For Robotics Educational Outreach website (Japanese).
JST ERATO Kitano Symbiotic Systems Project (1998-2003) was concluded at September, 2003. New project has started as JST ERATO-SORST program. The project now focuses on systems biology, which would continue for 5 years
The Open Pino Platform project website is in English and Japanese, and provides copies of all the Pino project information to the general public, but does require online registration to create an ID/Password before you gain access. It also includes a note stating:
* This site is not for the TOY "PINO-DX"
"PINO-DX" is a charactor toy produced and merchandised by Tukuda Original Co. Ltd. under license from ZMP INC. It has different mechanism from PINO.
Please direct any inquiry to< email@example.com or visit http://www.pinodx.com (in Japanese).
The Pino-DX website link returns an error - so it is probably safe to assume that it is no longer active.
Last, but not least, one of the Pino versions is being actively marketed in the U.K. by Firebox.com. Strangely enough it's listed under gadgets as "Pino - Practical Parenting" which appears to be a reference to the fact that Pino's behavior changes over time in kind of the same way a growing child would. They list Pino at UK 24.95 (about USD$46) and have an online video as well as PDF copies of the user manual. This may be the same high end toy version that was originally sold in Japan back in 2001/2002.
As for the possibility of hacking Pino - I suppose it's possible. Anything is possible if you want to put enough time and energy into it. If you're doing it for your own personal enjoyment and education, then have at it. If I was going to attempt hacking Pino I would make sure that I bought several of them. Like most 'toy' products, it's not likely to be available, even from the same source, a year or two later. If, during your hacking, you accidently break something it could turn out to be extremely difficult to find a replacement down the line. At that point your only recourse might be either eBay or the local junk shop.
If anyone does decide to hack Pino, please let me know how it goes. I would be very interested to find out what can be done with him.
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