Getting a robot to walk is usually a major challenge, even for many of the experts. Designing one that could also roller skate was really a stretch, but some how the folks at Systec Akazawa in Japan managed to get their Plen robot to do exactly that. Now they've been able to train Plen to actually skateboard, even down to popping a small wheelie.
We have to admit that when we first saw the Plen robot last year we weren't all that impressed. The cosmetic design is good, even down-right cute. But at the time we thought that Plen was just another, run-of-the-mill humanoid robot that was somewhat overpriced.
We still feel that Plen's 250,000 yen (about US$2,200) may be too high to gain much momentum in the marketplace. At that price, you could by a couple of KHR-2HVs or Robonova's and still have a little bit of change left over to buy some options or just an additional battery pack. All that being said, Plen's performance ability is really outstanding and extremely impressive when you see him in person.
The robot only stands 23 cm (9 inches) tall and weighs in at 700 grams (1.54 pounds), so it's definitely a light weight by anyone's book. It does have 18 degrees of freedom and comes equipped with a 3 axis accelerometer that obviously helps his balance terrifically.
In order to show off the robot's capabilities in the best light, the company recently put it through its paces walking, roller skating, and surprisingly enough - skateboarding. They captured the whole series on video, and have uploaded it to the video section of the new Plen robot website. [via robot-fan.net]
The Official Plen Website (Japanese)