It's been fairly common knowledge here in Japan that Takara-Tomy is planning to introduce a very low cost yet fully functional humanoid robot in the near future. Now, thanks to a very detailed article by Moriyama-san reporting for Robot Watch (see links below) a lot more information, photos, and videos have been revealed to the public.
The company, formed by a merger of Takara and Tomy - both extremely well known Japanese toy companies, has a long history with toys that are connected with robots in one way or another.
Takara is, of course, very famous for the Transformer robots that are also marketed by Hasbro in the US, while Tomy's robot history dates all the way back to 1985 when they introduced the Omnibot2000. Way ahead of its time, the Omnibot could speak, carry things as it moved around the room and was controlled by programs on magnetic tape or by a hand held remote.
The new robot, tentatively referred to as "Micromachine", stands only 15 cm (5.9 inches) tall, tips the scales at a feather light 300 grams (10.5 ounces), and fits in your hand about the same way as a Barbie doll would. At that size and weight you might expect some performance compromises, but equipped with 17 degrees of freedom and an on-board gyro, the robot appears to be a fully functional if scaled-down version of the ROBO-ONE type robots currently enjoying a boom in popularity here in Japan.
The robot is scheduled to be released to the market in March of 2007. The company's target price for the basic configuration is 300,000 yen (USD$270) or less. They are also planning to offer a model equipped with a camera and Bluetooth communication capability that will sell for around 400,000 yen.
The servo motors were developed internally using proprietary technology. Since the robot size was drastically reduced, the power and physical demands on the servos were also much lower and aided the designer's quest to minimize cost without compromising quality or performance.
Most of the recent humanoid robot designs are striving to increase on-board computing power. Many of them use 32 bit CPUs, up from the 8 bit controller chips that were used just a few years ago. Micromachine's designers, in contrast, decided to keep the robots CPU as simple, and as low cost, as possible.
Power is supplied by lithium polymer batteries that are housed in the robots feet. The robots hands, while not motorized, are flexible and could be used to hold small objects placed in their grip.
Initial work on the robot design started in the Fall of 2004 and is currently in the early production phase.
Takara Tomy To Sell Small Walking Robot - Robot Watch - Translated via Babelfish