For years we’ve been huge fans of Dynamizer and other ROBO-ONE champion robots designed by Tomio Sugiura and his family. Their robots have always featured fluid natural movements and unique characters that almost made them appear to be alive. It’s no wonder that they frequently captured the top awards in robotics competitions here while developing crowds of devoted and loyal fans.
To a large extent all of the Sugiura family’s robots reflect his own personal philosophy of design and of life. Several years ago, during a visit to the Sugiura home in Kanagawa, we asked him how Dynamizer was able to perform such amazing gymnastics without breaking its frames or stripping servo gears. Sugiura’s simple yet sincere response was, “You have treat them with respect and kindness.”
We’ve often wished that there was something, some humanoid robot kit on the market that captured the same performance, character, and style, but so far we’ve had to settle for stock commerical kits developed by traditional hobby RC car & airplane servo manufacturers. As good as those kits are, they’ve lacked something, some spirit, some spark of animation and life that we’ve always recognized and admired in Sugiura’s designs.
TinyWave Demonstration during IREX 2009:
Now it turns out that we might not have to wait much longer. In conjunction with his Korean counterparts, Sugiura has developed, and is starting to actively market, TinyWave, a new humanoid commercial design incorporating all of his, and his family’s experience and know-how. In addition to great mechanical design and fluid motions, the new robot features Bluetooth communication; a solid user interface with mirroring, reverse, and simple reverse-kinematics capability; and a unique controller with shift functions.
Sugiura shows off TinyWave at dinner in Akihabara (August 2009):
TinyWave was a big hit at ROBODAYS 2009 in Denmark:
The TinyWave design has already been proven in the real world. It has successfully participated in robot competitions in Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong; put on public demonstrations at ROBODAYS 09 in Denmark; and was the robot platform used by the Espresso Pachigi ROBO-ONE Soccer team that was recently featured by the Financial Times newspaper.
So, why hasn’t the general public heard about TinyWave? The answer is very simple. In addition to his world-class engineering and design ability, Sugiura is also a cautious and realistic businessman. He knows from personal experience and from observing other robot companies, that customer confidence, trust, and support are the key to success for any company. Since his small (Tiny?) company’s resources are very limited, he is determined to roll out TinyWave step by step, slowly at first, making sure that the distribution partners he selects are capable of supporting TinyWave customers and ensuring that their experience is a positive as possible.
So far TinyWave is only available via limited distribution channels in Japan and Hong Kong. Sugiura is in the process of identifying and qualifying distributors in other markets overseas. There is no way to predict when it will be available in your particular country, though we can definitely say with confidence that it will be well worth the wait.