ROBO-ONE was originally conceived as “Humanoid Robot Entertainment” with the unstated goal of stimulating a whole generation of Japanese, and international, developers to get involved in the humanoid robot movement. Everyone knew it would be impossible to replicate the performance of Honda’s ASIMO robot on a hobbyist budget, but it would be fun to see how far they could push the envelope in that direction.
The primary ROBO-ONE competitions, ROBO-ONE and ROBO-ONE Light, are held every six months, usually in February and September. At least one set of competitions is held in Tokyo with the other set occasionally being held in an “away” location.
Everyone knows how crazy the Japanese are about humanoid robots, but it's hard to really appreciate how extreme the mania is unless you can go behind the scenes and experience it first hand. In mid-March we were lucky enough to have access to all the pit areas for the 10th bi-annual ROBO-ONE Light competition.
Keep in mind that this is just one of the many humanoid competitions that take place regularly in Japan. There are regional competitions across the nation, some colleges and universities stage regular competitions, and some robot companies like KONDO hold competitions as well. It’s hard to get a good estimate of how many people are actively involved in the sport, and learning experience, nationwide. We can only judge from the large crowds of participants and audience that turn out in force for events like this.
Moreover, each one of those robots represents an investment of typically USD$1,500 or more plus countless hours of assembly, testing, motion creation, modifications/improvements, and practice. It’s not unusual for a fan dedicated to the sport to invest USD$10,000 or more constantly evolving and improving their robot over a period of many years.
Competitors come from all walks of life, age groups, and genders. While some of the participants are professional engineers, many are students, housewives, and even truck drivers. The one thing they have in common is a passion for robotics.
Although the ROBOTIS-MINI entry level humanoid kit robot is considerably smaller and lighter than the typical ROBO-ONE competitor, it still features speed and agility that ensure that with an experienced operator it can survive in the competition ring.
At the ROBO-ONE Light event, held mid-March in Atsugi, Japan, one of the ROBOTIS-MINI robots clearly demonstrated the robots potential. Of course, in the end the laws of physics have to prevail, and as you might expect, the robot was eliminated by a stronger competitor. Nevertheless, the ROBOTIS-MINI managed to duck and weave while avoiding what might have been killer punches from its opponents.
Think about it for a moment. Here’s a low-cost, under USD$500, humanoid robot that is Open-Source/Open-Hardware, as easy to put together as an IKEA bookshelf, Arduino compatible, targeted at STEM and robotics learners as well as researchers and hobbyists, and it turns out that almost out-of-the-box it is capable of going head to head with ROBO-ONE class humanoids. That’s pretty amazing. The ROBOTIS-MINI is making humanoid robots accessible, affordable, and exciting. You can’t beat that combination.
ROBO-ONE Light is open to all humanoid builders at an entry level and features pre-qualified robot kits that are typically around 1 kg. in weight. Competitions are held the day before the ROBO-ONE events.
ROBOTIS-MINI was formerly marketed as the DARWIN-MINI humanoid robot kit.
Amino-san loves to push the limits in new, creative, and often funny, ways. During today's ROBO-ONE Light competition he took things to totally new heights - literally:
In the end, the judges ruled against him. It turns out that although there is no restriction against ROBO-ONE robots taking to the air, there is a rule that requires them to be able to walk. Amino-san tried to demonstrate his version of air-walking, but failed to convince the judges.
There have been many ROBO-ONE Champions since the well-known humanoid robot competition first started 10 years ago, but I'm sure that back in 2002 no one ever imagined that the same builder would win the title twice in a row, and that the competitor that did would be a woman.
That's exactly what happened this afternoon when GAROO, the reigning ROBO-ONE 19 champion, went head to head in the ring against Gargoyle Mini for the ROBO-ONE 20 championship, a huge trophy, and a cash prize worth approximately $12,000.
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