Sugiura Brothers: Growing Up With Robots (Video)
The image on the right looks kind of like a father and child, and perhaps that's the most appropriate metaphor. It's actually part of some innovative work being done by Yuta Sugiura (one of the Sugiura Brothers) and Kento Kikuchi at the University of Electro-Communication. Their project, named 'Ubiquitous' features very creative, and insightful, approaches to controlling a humanoid robot, and has its roots in a long, and very constructive and healthy, father and son(s) relationship that also involves ROBO-ONE.
The Sugiura family is well known within robotic circles, for their ROBO-ONE champion robots like Dynamizer, Retro (on the left in the photo), Dynamizer Jr. (aka Kappa), and for their contributions as advisers to Kyosho on the MANOI AT01 project. While the head of the clan is certainly a technical wizard, and was responsible for Dynamizer's basic design, a large part of the programming, operation, and input of creative ideas came from the sons - the Sugiura Brothers.
Dad took on the role of coach, adviser, mentor, and number one fan for the boys. The results have been very gratifying, and even inspirational.
Dad (middle) standing in the background coaching while his 13 year old son operates Dynamizer in a ROBO-ONE style battle featured on prime-time television in Japan (January, 2005).
We remember being totally impressed by the way that Dynamizer was programmed, especially how natural and at ease they were at the process. It was almost like being able to ride a bicycle without having to consciously think about pedaling or keeping your balance. Even the little details, like holding Dynamizer in the left hand while using the program to create motions with the right hand, showed how comfortable they are at doing something that is quite difficult for most of us.
The Sugiura Brothers have grown up with robots, but more than that, robots have become an integral part of their life, their spirit, their passion. For them, humanoid robots aren't just remote controlled toys or a hobby. They have a dream, a passion. And a big part of that dream involves using humanoid robots to enrich peoples lives. They talk about creating robotic avatars - remote agents to operate in the physical world on behalf of people. That could be to assist the elderly or handicapped, or to do things that their operators couldn't accomplish by themselves.
One example that they shared with me was climbing Mount Everest. We'll never be able to climb it by ourselves, but they foresee the day when our personal avatars will be able to do just that on our behalf, and with us watching and interacting with them every step of the way.
For them, the ROBO-ONE style robots are a development and learning platform. They know that to do practical work or accomplish real world tasks, eventually their creations will need to be scaled up quite a bit. But the current size is perfect for experimenting and developing new approaches and concepts like "Ubiquitous".
They have just released a short demonstration video featuring some of the key principles behind the project:
We're sure that this is just the first step on a long, and very productive, career in robotics for all the brothers, and a lot of pride and satisfaction for their devoted parents as well.
Sugiura Brothers Website (Japanese)