I was invited to meet with the Nakagawa's at RT Corp in Akihabara last Friday to get an exclusive briefing covering the development of the Galaxy XMAS HUGS robot installation currently being featured at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo.
The Samsung Galaxy organization wanted to put together a unique exhibition at the Galaxy Cafe for the holiday season. Something that would utilize and feature the leading edge Galaxy technology coupled with a strong appeal that would connect with potential customers emotionally as well as logically.
The Nakagawa's were excited by the challenge and immediately saw the opportunity to combine several Galaxy products running the Android operating system with their RIC Android humanoid robot platform in a way that would create an engaging and memorable experience for everyone that tried it.
Mr. Nakagawa designed the original RIC humanoid robot platform and delights in modifying and improving it to meet the needs of new customers. He's created several different iterations of the RIC robot including NekoTecho - the cat store manager and the life-sized RIC Android robot that was a main attraction at Google Developer Days here in Japan and Europe.
Mrs. Nakagawa, the founder of RT Corp, saw the XMAS HUGS project as a wonderful initial demonstration of her vision for Cloud Robotics. She believes that over the next few years we'll start to see cloud based robotic applications that are able to capture video, images, and sensor data from multiple locations, integrate, analyze, and process the data, and interact with the real world environment utilizing robots of all types, including humanoids.
For example, the XMAS HUGS robot project captures video streams from four cameras; interacts with the user with songs, dance moves, and hugs; and provides the resulting data real time to the XMAS HUGS website. Remote viewers can chose which camera they want to view. The videos are in the process of being added to an online collection so that participants can go back and relive the experience with friends and family later.
XMAS HUGS is located in the Hillside zone of Roppongi Hills on the 2nd floor, which gives it great exposure to holiday shoppers. It's designed as a cafe environment offering a welcoming space with lots of tables and conversation areas. Of course there are Samsung Galaxy products available for demonstration throughout the cafe.
The XMAS HUGS robot uses a Galaxy TAB 10.1 LTE tablet as its "brain" and a Galaxy SII LTE for its "heart". Most of the robot control is done by the Galaxy TAB including all of the motion sequences, songs, and hugs. The Galaxy SII LTE handles all the user interaction and commands.
The Nakagawa's were really impressed by the Galaxy TAB processing power and mentioned that its 1.5 Ghz processor easily met and exceeded the demands of controlling all of the humanoid robot motions. Porting to the Galaxy devices was very straight forward and only required minor fine tuning and adjustments.
To accommodate people of different heights, from small children up to adults like me that are close to 2 meters tall, the organizers designed slide out steps.
Mrs. Nakagawa explains the overall project and some of the design trade-offs:
Is it successful?
We think so, as you can see from watching people try it real time via the XMAS HUGS website.
The Nakagawa's are actively looking for other projects that can benefit from cloud robotics. If you have any serious applications or requirements, I'm sure they would be happy to discuss them.