“One Ring To Rule Them All” – Robotic ring brings plush toys to life (Video)

Robot ring

The researchers and graduate students at the Igarashi Design Interface Project never cease to amaze me with their creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. They seem to be on an exciting quest to apply robotic technology in new, unexpected, yet tremendously useful ways to improve everyday life.

PINOKY, their latest creation that will be unveiled tomorrow during SIGGRAPH ASIA 2011 in Hong Kong, is a great example.

Using readily available technology, including a micro controller, motors, photo reflectors, a wireless module, and battery, they came up with a simple ring device that animates almost any plush toy in a very realistic manner without requiring any modifications to the toy.

That, in itself, would be a great design accomplishment, but they went even further. Putting the photo reflectors to good use, they have expanded PINOKY to support a type of catch & play motion sequence capture. Users can move the plush toy limb controlled by the PINOKY ring while recording the motion, then have it played back automatically.

Here's their demo video showing PINOKY in action:

According to the PINOKY description,

"PINOKY is a wireless ring-like device that can be externally attached to any plush toy as an accessory that animates the toy, such as by moving its limbs. A user is thus able to instantly convert any plush toy into a soft robot. The user can control the toy remotely or input the movement desired by moving the plush toy and having the data recorded and played back. Unlike other methods for animating plush toys, PINOKY is non-intrusive, so alterations to the toy are not required. In a user study, 1) the roles of plush toys in the participants' daily lives were examined, 2) how the participants played with plush toys without PINOKY was observed, 3) how they played with plush toys with the device was observed and their reactions to the device were surveyed. On the basis of the results, potential applications were conceptualized to illustrate the utility of PINOKY."

Yuta Sugiura, Calista Lee, Anusha Withana, Yasutoshi Makino, Daisuke Sakamoto, Masahiko Inami, and Takeo Igarashi, PINOKY: A Ring That Animates Your Plush Toys,
ACM SIGGRAPH ASIA 2011 Emerging Technologies, Hong Kong, December 2011.

(Via: PINOKY | PROJECTS)

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3 comments

  1. I’m not overly impressed. It’s big and bulky and doesn’t create enough animation to be really useful in any way. I just can’t imagine a real use for it other than to make a limb move a little bit … but why? For what? I can’t see my toddler being impressed at all either which is the real reason for considering such a device. I can already see the “Meh” reaction from my toddling daughter.
    Maybe there’s some other kind of use of such a device other than being affixed to plush toys? I’m sure there’s something useful that could be done with them with a little imagination and foresight.

    • Jim,

      It’s a research project, not a finished product. They just want to explore the possibilities to see what’s possible with the technology. Decades ago the first mouse prototype looked pretty clunky and unusable, but with time and effort it became central to our daily lives.

      There probably are some other uses for the technology, as you suggested, perhaps even some that are X rated. :D

      • Well, great things often begin with big and bulky things we don’t yet realize a use for. :) As in your example, the mouse.

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