Doka Harumi isn’t very old. She isn’t very tall, only 130 cm. And, she doesn’t weigh very much, just 9.95 kg. But what she can do, and does amazingly well, is to shake her booty.
Last night, over some yakitori and quite a few beers, we were discussing whether or not the competitors at the 16th Kawasaki Robot Festival could be properly classified as ‘robots’ or not.
In one sense the Kawasaki bots are R/C mechanisms. They aren’t autonomous and typically aren’t equipped with an array of sensors or advanced electronics and computing power.
But, at the same time, they do teach participants the basics of robot design, especially with regard to mechanisms, motors, and remote control systems.
The most important factor, and the reason that we, personally, can easily agree to call them ‘robots’ is that they excite, delight, and inspire the participants and the audience.
Here’s a quick look at some of the action that might give you some understanding of why we like this robot sport so much:
At the end of the day, everyone at the Kawasaki Robot Festival had a fantastic time, and most of them will spend hours, days, weeks, and even months, getting ready to do it all over again for the 17th competition.
What happens when two humanoid robot builders, one a Japanese ROBO-ONE champion for half a decade and the other an American RoboGames gold metal winner without peer, meet up in Korea to fight it out?
Roaring testosterone? Tempers soaring out of control? Blood, guts, servo motors burning, gears flying?
Nope. Not at all.
They play baseball, of course!
And, they’re actually pretty good at it. Check out the action around minute 3:00.
On the pitching mound representing Japan at the Korea Robot Game Festival, is Mega Dynamizer designed and built by Tomio Sugiura. At the plate, doing a great job of connect with the fast balls (and wearing the cool slacks) is Zyn, created by Rob(ot) Farrell, the driving force behind Farrell Robotics.
The “BRAVE” Robot Competition Series is one of our favorites here because it gets people envolved in building, learning, and enjoying robotics with a minimum investment in time, money, and effort. Think of it as a ‘kinder, gentler’ version of combat robots, where the goal is just to turn your opponent over on its back rather than total berserker destruction.
The results of the BotJunkie robot group naming contest are in and the winners have been announced. All things considered, it was quite an interesting exercise for all concerned.
Some of the unexpected surprises:
When it comes to motivating people, espcially kids and those still young at heart, to really excel at robotics, competitive games are one of the most useful tools available. Of course there are many competitions, like ROBO-ONE humanoid wrestling, FIRST, VEX, and others. All of those serve a very useful, and noble, purpose. Still, the level of expertise and investment in both time and money, just to get into the game is not trivial, and is often beyond the means of a novice, especially in small towns or rural areas.
There are, however, simple robot games that can be enjoyed by anyone that can put together even the most basic mobile robot. A good example is Robot Billiards, one of the games frequently played by fans of the popular Wonderful Robot Carnival competitions here.
Define a playing field big enough for the robot to move around a bit. Take 9 paper cups, turn them upside down, and mark the numbers from 1 to 9 on their bottom. Place them around the perimeter of the field in a pattern so the robot has to go back and forth. The challenge is for the robot to knock each one of the cups out of the field in the shortest possible time without falling out itself.
You’d be surprised at how difficult it can be sometimes, and how much fun.