Murata Boy: Bicycling Robot Fascinates The Crowd (Video)

In the 1950's, we stood on the street in front of a department store in Washington, D.C. watching hundreds of people totally enthralled by their first experience watching a television set. The screen was small. The image was black and white. And they had absolutely no idea how it would end up changing their lives completely. Still, they were fascinated.

In the 1980's, we stood on a street in front of a department store in Shanghai watching hundreds of people totally enthralled by their first experience watching television. The screen was much larger, and in color, but the impact was just the same.

Last Saturday, we stood in the Makuhari Messe convention center just outside of Tokyo watching several thousand people totally enthralled by a small, white, bicycling robot. The robot wasn't even for sale, and will probably never be commercialized, but there was something about the experience that absolutely riveted the crowd's attention and captivated them.

As we mentioned in a previous post, Murata Manufacturing designs and produces a wide range of semiconductor and sensor devices for use in products like cell phones, portable computers, and the like. In order to show off their devices they hit upon the idea of a robot that could balance and ride a bicycle.

Their demonstration robot, named Murata Boy, features lots of Murata devices including gyroscopes, accelerometers, Bluetooth modules and quite a few others. Each device, taken individually, isn't that exciting. Our cellphone uses one of their accelerometers to sense when to rotate the display from portrait to landscape mode. Bluetooth modules have become fairly commonplace in cellphones and other portable devices.

Murata's real inspiration was to combine all of the devices into one robot that would immediately capture the attention of their customers. As it turns out, they may have been too successful. The crowds at the Murata CEATEC 2006 booth extended out of their huge exhibit and completely blocked the aisles in every direction. Even at 4:30 pm on Saturday afternoon just before the show closed its doors for this years event, the Murata exhibit was still packed with people trying to get a glimpse of the robot doing its stuff.

Here's what it was like:


5 thoughts on “Murata Boy: Bicycling Robot Fascinates The Crowd (Video)

  1. Very nice! The tricks with accelerometers result in superhuman skills. They will need to start posting “This is not a fake” style signs on shows.

  2. Neat. The gyroscope in his chest is much different than any I’m familiar with. The one’s I’ve seen rotate at high speeds horizontally, perpendicular to the ground (and perhaps I haven’t seen enough of them to be a good judge either 😉 ). It seems like it’s distinctly more reactive than a standard mechanical gyroscope – not only spinning on the horizontal plane, but also having a vertical rotation to counter-act the opposing degree of applied gravity from side-to-side. Maybe its frequency is matching the camera’s frame-rate or something, but it appears the vertical rotation teeters the entire scope as needed… a little extra “push” in the opposing direction? …just a guess. Regardless of how it works, it’s pretty cool!

  3. if the robot is not for selling why did you make it

  4. Good question – thanks.

    There are many different reasons for building robots that aren’t for sale, including basic R&D, core research, hobbies, technology demonstrations, etc. In this particular case, Murata Manufacturing is one of the biggest suppliers of gyros, sensors, and other ICs and technologies, so they built Murata Boy to show off the use of products that they do sell. They just don’t sell the robot – they use it to show people what can be done with ther ICs and products.

  5. Matt, The Gyro used here is very similar to the powerball gyro link to
    These can be spun at over 15000 rpm and have LEDs in them and a device can be cliped on that can read the RPM. If you made a reversed version of powerball then you can know the robots inclination relative to the ground.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>