Japanese Robot Books – ROBO-ONE Guide

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We are often asked about the Japanese books and magazines we read and could recommend to others. At first we hesitated to make any suggestions given the language challenges, but enough people have indicated an interest that we've decided to regularly post about some of the best robot publications available here in Japan. It also turns out to be very easy to order them from overseas, as we explain below.

A good place to start is with the ROBO-ONE Official Guide since the book gives a great overview of the ROBO-ONE events, competitors, and organization while including a wealth of graphics and photos that even fans that don't understand any Japanese will find fascinating. 

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Rediscovering "The Modern Robot"

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In doing some research, Ryan ran across several images that included a robot that he thought must have been constructed in the 1940's or earlier, but couldn't locate any background information. So, he turned to the comp.robotics.misc group on the internet for help. Within 24 hours several group members responded with helpful information and pointers. A few days later there were more details, and in less than a week the story behind the robot was confirmed.

The robot turned out to be "Alpha", a 6 foot 4 inch steel giant that tipped the scales at around 1 ton, yet was able to respond to spoken questions using primitive voice recognition. During demonstrations that took place in 1934, it would answer questions, "read" a newspaper, and even fire a pistol. Unfortunately Alpha had never heard of Asimov's Three Laws, because according to a November 1934 Time Magazine article the robot managed to blast the skin off it's inventor's arm, and on another occasion put an assistant in the hospital.

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Hacking Roomba – How To Hijack The World's Most Popular Robot Vacuum Cleaner

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It looks like we have a very interesting Christmas coming up. Although they are relatively hard to come by here in Japan, Christmas morning is very likely to find a brand new iRobot Roomba under the tree. We've been drooling over the Roomba for a long, long time.

 And, to go along with it, there will also be a brand new book titled - Hacking Roomba: ExtremeTech that includes hacks documenting how to drive the Roomba, play with sensors, get it to sing, connect it to the net, turn it into a mobile Roomba-cam, and even how to put Linux on the Roomba.

Actually, on second thought, we better buy two Roomba's. One to keep our floors clean, and a second one to hack and have fun with...


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MANOI AT01 Appears In Two Famous Places At Once

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MANOI AT01, the new humanoid robot from Kyosho, sure gets around. Even though he's not available for general sale outside of Japan yet, he's popping up in well-known newspapers, magazines, and websites all over the world. Yesterday, November 1st, he outdid himself by appearing in two famous publications at the same time.

First, he showed up on the Wired.com website in an excellent article titled "I, Robot Builder" written by Tim Hornyak the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." The article has just the right mix of facts and humor to give you a real taste of what he went through building the robot right out of the box. Tim is well qualified to report on the MANOI AT01 given his years of experience as a technology, culture, and history reporter based here in Japan since 1999.

Second, the MANOI AT01 graced the five pages in a feature article for the Winter 2006 issue of ROBOT Magazine that hit news stands and bookstores on the 1st. The article includes a lot of the background behind the robot's development, its ROBO-ONE legacy, and an interesting performance comparison chart. There are also some nice excerpts from the print article in a 'teaser' version on the ROBOT Magazine website.

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Is RFID a Hobbyist Tool Yet?

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Engadget, one of our favorite online sources of interesting and “wow” technology stuff, just ran an article on super-RFID tags and the Department of Homeland Security. The obvious twist on that story is the invasion of privacy angle, and of course that is a serious concern. But it also got us thinking more deeply about the application of RFID tags to more mundane problems - like how your robot might know its location and how it might follow you around . . .


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The Secret To Robot Humor (Video)

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As every good comedian and humorist finds out sooner or later, the real key to getting belly laughs from your audience is to connect with them at a gut level, and the key to establishing that connection is to choose the right audience. So, it’s no surprise that when Daniel H. Wilson, the author of How To Survive A Robot Uprising, visited Google recently to talk about the book, and tell a few robot jokes, he found a very receptive audience.


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