Over the past few years we've been lucky enough to watch and report as the ROBO-ONE humanoid robots have battled for top position. And, on rare occasions, we've even been allowed to operate a few of them. As you might expect, all of them have been impressive in one way or another. But recently we ran across some video clips of a robot that totally blew us away.
The video clips (see below) are of ONIMARU2, created by Yamaguchi-san. This humanoid robot and its predecessors are sometimes referred to here in Japan as the 'Demon Robot' or the 'strongest humanoid robot'. That may very well be the case. In our opinion, ONIMARU2 is the 'most impressive robot' we've ever seen.
It isn't just a matter of pure power - there may be stronger robots out there, and if there aren't you can be sure that someone has a design on the drawing boards.
The primary reason that we find this particular robot so impressive is that Yamaguchi-san has gone to great lengths to create ONIMARU as a true humanoid in every sense of the word.
Some other ROBO-ONE competitors design their robots focused on winning the competition. That's fine - we don't have a problem with that approach and often enjoy their creations. But, what they end up with is not a humanoid, it's a mutant fighting machine. For example, creating forearms that are four or five times longer than normal can be a very effective fighting technique, but is also a radical departure from the humanoid model.
ONIMARU, on the other hand, has very normal and pleasing (sometimes frighteningly so) physical dimensions and relative ratios. When it stands and walks around, it really gives you the impression that it is a small person. It can be so lifelike that sometimes you have to do a double, triple, or quadruple look before you really convince yourself that it isn't alive.
Even more important, Yamaguchi-san models all of ONIMARU2's movements on human motion, even down to hip rotation and arm exentions when the robot lifts itself up off the floor. It does everything just like a human, except picking its nose.
Here's a few examples:
Kicking and Throwing-
Double Karate Chop Moves -
So, how did Yamaguchi-san do it? That's another really surprising part of his story. He isn't an engineer or designer by training. In fact, he's the operator of a noodle shop in Kochi, Japan. He's entirely self-taught, and never had any formal technical courses or education other than what he has studied on his own.
But, he has the passion, and the dream, and he's determined to make them a reality. In fact, his nickname within the Japanese humanoid robot community is "Yume" - the Japanese word for "Dream".