The Japanese press seems to have taken a real liking to MANOI, the humanoid robot developed by Takahashi-san of Robot Garage and based on the Kondo KHR-1 design.
After the official announcement, there have been quite a few news articles including photos of MANOI in action and interesting tidbits on how he might be marketed.
According to the ITmedia article (link below) MANOI is the first robot of it’s class targeted at the general market instead of just devoted robot maniacs. The underlying robotics platform, the KHR-1 proved to be very popular with hobbyists and robotic experimenters. Since Kondo put the KHR-1 kit on the market about 18 months ago they have sold over 3,000 sets even though kit was priced at 126,000 yen (about USD$ 1,260). Robots based on the same platform became the featured performers at Japanese robotics competitions and were even the focus of a continuing segment on a prime time Japanese television program for a couple of months earlier in the year. MANOI is priced slightly higher at 150,000 yen (USD $1,500) but is forecasted to sell about 10 times as many units.
Some of the features that really impressed the press were MANOI’s ability to move at “high speed”, walk very much like a human being, and stand on one foot. The manufacturer expects to have MANOI capable of running by the time it hits the market in June of 2006. Like the KHR-1, MANOI is controlled by Windows based software running on a PC, though it should be relatively easy to implement other control strategies.
Options are expected to include additional sensors and a selection of body color schemes. Takahashi, MANOI’s creator (father?) said that he wanted to create a robot that would fit smoothly into people’s daily lifestyle and be easily accepted by women – especially one that a wife wouldn’t berate her husband for buying.
MANOI competitions are already being promoted by the manufacturer. They expect a typical event will include contests that focus on the robot’s unique skills and plan on holding 5 meter races as a part of the competitions. Initially eight to ten events will be scheduled next year in Japan with a world wide convention held several times a year.