The popular view of ROBO-ONE competitions, both inside and outside of Japan, is two robots that bear more than a passing resemblance to Gundam trying to knock each other down or out of the ring completely.
But, as the active competitors and devoted fans know, ROBO-ONE is much, much more than that. We've explained briefly before how the robots have to pass a pre-screening test, and then have to do a two minute autonomous demonstration for the judges before they can even qualify to get into the final day's bouts.
It's easy to understand how a robot that evokes the image of Gundam or Majingaa might strike a chord with the judges. But what about a different type of robot? One that looks like it just wants to go out and play in the rain?
Naoko Hikima is an experienced robot designer. If you asked her directly, she would probably get a little embarrassed and deny that she is, but nevertheless her robot creations clearly demonstrate how talented and professional she is.
In the previous ROBO-ONE competition last Spring her robot had a bit of trouble during the demonstration phase, but Hikima-san handled the situation without skipping a beat.
This time around, for the ROBO-ONE 10 event, she entered "Kumataro", a bear robot with a really unique and cute personality. 'Kuma' means bear in Japanese, so the name "Kumataro" is probably intended to give the impression of "Bear Boy" in much the same way that "Momotaro" translates to mean "Peach Boy".
Kumataro started off life as a stock KHR-2HV kit, and then was heavily modified by Hikima-san. To give the robot more torque, she upgraded all the servos to KRS-2350's - not a trivial project since all of the frames and brackets had to be redesigned and fabricated to accommodate the new servos different physical dimensions.
As you can see from the photos and videos, she also put quite a bit of work into creating motion sequences and scenarios as well as Kumataro's costume and accessories. We don't have a picture of it, but inside the robot's little green shoulder bag there were lots of sweets and other goodies. And then there was the challenge of carrying and opening the umbrella.
Just to put things in perspective, Kumataro weighs 2.5 kg (dry, not wet) and stands 43 cm tall, not counting the umbrella.
How did Kumataro and Hikima-san fare? Did the judges smile on them?
Very good actually. Kumataro's total performance earned him a score of 279 points. Normally a score that high would have qualified the robot for the final matches. However, since the performance and ability of many competitors has improved dramatically, the robots score wasn't quite high enough.
Only 32 robots made the cut to battle it out in the ring, and Kumataro's score was just a hair too low. How close was it?
Literally just a hair. Kumataro ended up in 33rd place overall, just 2 or 3 points away from making the cut. Still, Kumataro pulled off an admirable 2 minute demonstration.