King Kizer – Designing Robots That Play To Win (Video)

Nao Maru, the head of the Maru Family team that created King Kizer, the current ROBO-ONE Champion robot, is a firm believer in management planning, and his robot designs really reflect his beliefs. As much as humanly possible, they try to carefully consider everything that could possibly occur during a competition, and have a strategy to deal with it successfully under the pressure of an event.

When we visited the Maru home last December, they were kind enough to share some of the latest improvements incorporated into King Kizer in preparation for the last competition in the 2006 ROBO-ONE Grand Prix series, and let us take some video clips (included below). They asked us, at the time, to keep this information confidential until after the event which took place the first week in January.

While Maru totally enjoys robot building as a hobby and sport, he also takes it very seriously. He believes in the old saying that you should always, "Play to win, or not play at all."

So he, and his family, carefully analyze the results of every competition looking for ways to improve, or to avoid falling into common traps. Sometimes the problem is simple and the solution very straight forward - like bringing along another battery, servo, or cable.

Other problems can be more challenging and call for really creative design approaches. For example, operating a ROBO-ONE robot standing on one side of the competition ring it is often difficult to clearly judge the robot's orientation and distance from the competitor. It's very common to see a robot throw a punch or jump out at its opponent only to miss completely because the other robot wasn't quite where the operator thought.

Of course, the more times you compete, and the more practice you get, the better you become at judging things like that. Still, even the top ROBO-ONE robot operators frequently miss their targets. At the same time, it's very easy to get confused during the heat of battle and mistakenly push the 'right' button when you should be pushing 'left'.


One of the two Sharp distance sensors that provide opponent detection for attacks to each side.

King Kizer already used one Sharp GP2D12 optoelectronic distance sensor installed in the chest area for external control. During the ROBO-ONE demonstration events the robot was programmed to go through a set of motions, then wait until the operator put their hand in front of the sensor before executing the next part of its routine.

By installing the same sensors on both sides of the robot, and changing its programming, the Maru Family was able to creatively solve both problems. The sensors allow King Kizer to know when his opponent is in the target area - even when the operator may not be able to judge. And, at the same time, the robot also knows which side to attack.

Here's how it works:

Through thorough analysis and critical thinking, they were able to design the 'pilot error' factor out of the robots operation while providing the robot with more autonomous operation ability. It will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

Related links:

Maru Family - King Kizer Official Website (Japanese)


4 thoughts on “King Kizer – Designing Robots That Play To Win (Video)

  1. This family is awsome. Could you tell us what control board are they using on their bots. I’m coming up with my own designs using several types of servos and control boards and is looking to settle once I can add sensors and even vision. Right now I am using the RCG3HV but I don’t think I can use Optic or Sonic sensors with it. It would nice to know what they are using.

    Keep up the good work both you the Maru family.


  2. Hi Ken,

    Maru Family is pretty awesome, but they are only one of the families that actively participate in this hobby. It’s a great sport to involve the whole family, or friends.

    I think you meant RCB3HV – the Kondo controller used in the KHR-2HV, KHR-1HV, and MANOI AT01. It has three input ports. Typically people use two of them for gyro’s, then the other one for an accelerometer or other sensor – sometimes optical.

    Maru Family started with a KHR-1 a couple years ago that used the RCB1 controller. Their original robot, named ‘Shining G’ was fairly stock, though they did make some body shell and design mods. When they started designing the King Kizer robots (this is about the 3rd generation) they switched to Kondo’s Motion Processor board. I’ve written a long article about their development history that should be published in a few months. I’ll post about it here on Robots Dreams as soon as the schedule is confirmed.

  3. Hi, I am an electronic engineer from south america, Colombia. Robo-one is really great. I hope you can help me with the following question….What type of sensors does robots like king sizer or omnizero.2,4 use? Do they use Zero Moment Point control?

  4. Carlos,

    You asked:
    > What type of sensors does robots like king sizer or omnizero.2,4 use?

    Almost all the ROBO-ONE robots are equipped with two gyros for balance, and often an accelerometer to tell them when they have fallen down. Beyond that, some of the builders have added additional sensors – like IR detectors and sometimes cameras. Both King Kizer and OmniZero.4 will track objects in front of them. That functionality can be used to have them recognize and attack opponents in the ring, or for more friendly and practical purposes.

    > Do they use Zero Moment Point control?

    Most of the robots use one implementation of ZMP or another. Of course there are a few that have enough degrees of freedom and onboard processing power that they can handle other approaches.

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