The theme of the November 21st issue of Time magazine is "The Most Amazing Inventions of 2005", and one of the sections features an interesting selection of recent robot inventions. We've been convinced for a long time that 2005 marks the dawning of a new age of robotics, and it appears that Time is catching on to the same trend.
Who Makes The Choices?
Separated at birth? Toshiba ApriAttenda robots and the Shmoo
We have to keep in mind that Time is a "pop" magazine, and deals in topics that catch the public interest - without necessarily digging in very deeply. Their selection of 5 robots for the "Best Inventions 2005: Bot Crazy" section is puzzling to say the least.
Their picks: Toshiba's ApriAttenda robots, which bring back memories of Al Capp's Shmoo characters, or the Pillsbury Dough Boy; Walkie Bits - the cute little turtle robots created by Takara (our personal favorite); iCat - the expressive cat robot prototype by Philips Research; Nuvo - ZMP Inc.'s 15 inch dancing bipedal robot with no hands; and the life-sized Tohoku University prototype robot that you can actually dance with.
Out of the five, the one that we would include on our own, personal list is Walkie Bits. The innovative turtle robots are a lot of fun to play with, perform exactly as advertised, offer good play value for the money, and have proven to be extremely popular in Japan - to the point that the stores here have frequently been sold out.
Time's other choices - well, to be polite, are pretty strange. We can't figure out what selection criteria they might have used to decide who was included in their list. Nuvo, for example, doesn't do anything really new or unique, and has a target price that's a minimum of three times more expensive than other similar bipedal robots like Manoi or Robonova. Some of their other selections, like the ApriAttenda and iCat devices are interesting, but far from earth-shaking, prototypes.
Time will tell, though "Time" may never tell. We'll see over the long run which robots can survive the test of time.
Walkie Bits Page - Takara Toys [Japanese]
"Nuvo Starts Trucking" - Article on the ZMP Nuvo robot