Japan Victor (JVC), well known for its audio-visual equipment, is trying to figure out if there is consumer interest in small humanoid robots that they might be able to satisfy. As a part of their ongoing market research, they demonstrated the J4 robot at the Tsukumo Robot Kingdom store in Akihabara recently.
JVC has been working on humanoid robots since 2000. The development staff came primarily from their VTR design group and has focused on applying JVC's miniaturization and mechanism design know-how to robot design.
Their latest effort, the J4, made its debut at the CEATEC JAPAN 2004 trade show as a 'prototype' or 'concept', and JVC has been very quiet about any plans to pro actively market J4 as a consumer product. Instead, the J4 has been shown off as an example of JVC's advanced technology.
Yes, it really is that small!
J4 weighs around 770 grams (1.7 pounds), and stands roughly 20 cm (7.8 inches) tall. There are two CMOS cameras in its head (JVC is a video company after all...) and is controlled via Bluetooth. JVC sees it being operated remotely by users via cell phone networks. To support that type of application, they are working on speech, face, and obstacle recognition capability.
The robots power comes from a lithium ion battery pack rated for 90 minutes of operation. The basic body was designed using aluminum frames combined with resin cowls and body parts. The robot uses two different types of servos, functionally similar to commercial products but with design enhancements originated by JVC.
According to press reports, JVC has yet to announce any release schedule for the J4. Instead, they are actively looking for market feedback from potential customers, which accounts for the public demonstration last week.
In terms of positioning, JVC said they wanted to create a desktop-size robot, capable of communication with man, with its own identity or personality - a kind of friendly, helpful robot mascot.
The next J4 public demonstration is scheduled for February 11th at the TEPIA Plaza (Aoyama) in Tokyo.
PC-Watch JVC J4 Robot News (Japanese)
JVC J4 Robot Video - mov file via PC-Watch
JVC Webpage Featuring J4 - Flash animation with J4 in the middle of the page
JVC Website (Japanese)