The annual Robot Fashion Contest in Osaka, Japan is scheduled for November 24th.
It's one robot competition that depends more on style and beauty than on technical merit or raw power. "Performance" takes on a totally different meaning.
Competitors are judged on esthetic factors, and the rules are fairly free and open. While there are the usual restrictions - like no extreme weapons, gunpowder, gasoline, and the like - the robots can use props, background music, and even assistants (human or otherwise). Most of the robots are typically humanoid, but the rules allow you to enter other types of robot designs.
Did I mention there are PRIZES? Some top competitors will walk away with over USD$1,000 - which I'm sure they will spend to buy more servos and other robot gear.
Related links: Robot Fashion Contest 2013
Technically, logically, and emotionally I have always found Professor Sankai's arguments to be right on target. His vision of a future where human capability is augmented and extended through pragmatic application of robotic technology has tremendous appeal. And his view on how this could (should) be naturally developed in Japan, leveraged by obvious needs in health care and nursing, along with other areas where Japan excels, seems perfectly reasonable. Especially since it allows Japanese robot developers to approach the challenge from a position of strength and know-how.
"In America, a lot of high-tech research originates from the defense and aerospace industries. But in Japan, we'd like to make high-tech advances in the health and welfare field, which is very difficult because technology has to be applied to individuals. And in this way, we think technology from industry could be used to enhance everyday life. We feel this might be one way for Japan to show the world some unique achievements."
However, the one thing that I can't figure out is how it will actually come to fruition. Cyberdyne's technology is certainly world-class, but I have to wonder about the company's business model and long term strategy. Investors and backers have obviously pumped millions of dollars into the project, year after year. Yet no one even begins to hint that it is profitable, even on a run rate basis.
How deep is the rabbit hole? How much longer will the company's backers continue to support the cash flow required to keep it alive and striving to catch the attention of the world? The jury is still out. Given the state of the Japanese economy over the past few years, Cyberdyne's backers run some risk of not being able to fund the company, even if they want to, since things are getting tighter and tighter here.
The other, possibly significant, risk is a competitive challenger suddenly appearing on the scene - perhaps from Korea or China. While Cyberdyne's robot suits are extremely impressive, even if they don't come in my size, very little of the technology is unique and un-reproduceable. Assuming that a viable market for the robot suits actually exists, which still needs to be proven, Cyberdyne doesn't appear to have created a strong barrier to entry against competitors.
SANKYO, one of the leading Japanese suppliers of Pachinko equipment, has a new video featuring Yasuko Sawaguchi with a cute humanoid robot.
Like most Japanese television commercials it's hard to tell exactly what the connection is between the video content any actual product of trying to sell. Most Japanese television commercials are highly stylised and "good feeling – good image" in contrast to the commercials we see in the US.
The commercial doesn't show any additional information about the robot, though it appears from the design that Takahashi was probably involved somehow. It really has a close resemblance to his work.
The Robot Japan competitions get better and better each time. The 5th bi-annual event, held last Sunday in Tokyo, was the best competition yet from all aspects. The professionalism, showmanship, energy, and excitement was absolutely fantastic.
Here's my photo set of the afternoon. I'll be posting several videos of the action on the Robots Dreams YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/robotsdreams) also.
The ROBO-ONE organizing committee announced that the 6th ROBO-ONE Light competition will be held Saturday, February 23, 2013 at the Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science in Tokyo.
The qualifying tests for the 22nd ROBO-ONE competition will be held the same day immediately following the ROBO-ONE Light event, with the full competition scheduled for Sunday, February 24th, 2013 at the same venue.
The events, which will be staged in the large 7th floor auditorium, are open to the public with free admission.
This is Japan, so you would think the people wouldn't be surprised to see a robot rolling around in the streets. But, somehow, the TurtleBot-2 managed to surprise and delight quite a few customers and bystanders in the streets of Nagoya this weekend.
William Morris, the founder of Iheartengineering – a great resource for specialty tools, kits, ideas, and even custom parts – dropped in on us last week during his business trip to Korea. William was kind enough to bring along the latest turtle bot configuration and show it off.
I'll be posting more about the turtle bot in the next day or so, including more video, some detailed photos, and a summary of Williams presentation at the Tokyo HackerSpace.