Building One Of The ROBO-ONEs: Creating Gulliver's Personality

Gulliver, our KHR-1 based robot, hasn't had much of a personality so far. We've had our hands full just getting him functioning, creating and programming new motions, mapping and debugging the remote control, and carving out enough free time to devote to the process. But with the ROBO-ONE J competition coming up in early August we decided we better give some serious thought to creating a unique image and backstory for our robot.

It would be very tempting to just model Gulliver on one of the popular robot characters like Gundam, Tetsujin (Gigantor), Atom (Astro Boy), or something like that. We even gave some serious thought to making him look like a humanoid Zoid.

Still, we really want Gulliver to have his own, easily understood and easily recognized character. At the same time, the ROBO-ONE rules specifically rule out using any copyrighted character with a few limited exceptions where they have obtained pre-approval from the holder of the character license. That automatically precludes creating a Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse, or Winnie the Pooh robot character, unless you wanted to openly invite the Sanrio or Disney lawyers to knock on your door.

Also, the first phase of the standard ROBO-ONE and ROBO-ONE J competitions require a 2 minute 'demonstration' by each entrant. Some of the competitors have their robots go through their paces showing off some unique or unusual technological feature. That can be interesting in itself, but we've observed that the entries that put in the extra effort to put on more of a show and have a consistent theme and story to tell seem to do much better with the judges and tend to get higher scores than they would if they only focused on the technology. 

Besides, creating a new personality for Gulliver could be a lot of fun, and will definitely teach us more than we ever wanted to know about handicrafts, sewing, and hot-melt glue.


The "Gulliver" name was originally suggested by my wife. She has a great sense of humor and must have thought it was extremely funny that her 6' 7" (2 meter) husband was preoccupied with robot that is just over 1 foot tall. She also remembered that the original Gulliver, as created by Jonathan Swift in 'Gulliver's Travels' in 1726, had the same first name as I do, 'Lemuel.' When we discovered that in the course of his fictional travels Gulliver actually visited Japan, then it was obvious that my new robot absolutely had to be christened "Gulliver".


For the KHR-1 Second Anniversary celebration earlier this month, we quickly created a simple dark blue summer kimono/yukata with the Japanese kanji for 'cool'  (suzushii) on the back. It turned out looking pretty cute with just the right element of word-play since 'cool' has several meanings. For Gulliver's face unfortunately time constraints forced us to settle for just a few simple stick-on dots to simulate eyes, so he basically looked like many of the other KHR-1 robots at the event.

Since then we've been making the rounds of the local toy, hobby, robot, and 100 yen (dollar) stores looking for ideas and materials we can put to good use. And, of course, we've borrowed a few ideas from some of the other robots that we happen to really like. Above all, we want to keep the design, and fabrication, as simple and straight forward as possible. Processes like vacuum forming plastic robot shells would be tremendously interesting, but will have to wait a while until we have a lot more time.


Thankfully, we've managed to locate a series of character toys that have rubber heads that are just the right size to mount on Gulliver's head servo. The front of the heads have imprinted faces, but the backs are pretty plain and should work out just fine. A quick toy decapitation was performed (my wife gasped in horror, but it was over quickly), followed by some minor surgery to create holes for Gulliver's hair and eyes.

Some yarn for his hair, eyes with floating pupils that are sold for use in creating teddy bears, and within a few minutes Gulliver's personality, or at least his head and face, started to take shape. There's a lot more work to do, but at this point we feel reasonably comfortable that we'll be able to create something presentable within the next two weeks in time to include a good photo for his ROBO-ONE profile. We'll try to document the whole process and report it here on Robots Dreams as we make additional progress.


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