I'm happy to announce that King Kizer, the awesome ROBO-ONE Champion robot created by Nao Maru, has signed up as part of the Robot Japan team for their 2012 U.S. Tour with an exclusive engagement at RoboGames, April 20th-22nd in San Mateo, California.
King Kizer took humanoid robot competition to a totally new level and inspired Japanese robot builders to ramp up their humanoid bots while accomplishing feats of speed, agility, and flexibility that was thought by experts to be impossible just a few years ago. As impressive as it seems, the video below can't begin to communicate how compellingly powerful, fast, and responsive King Kizer is in the ring.
Of all the photos I took at the ROBO-ONE Light competition in Kawasaki last Saturday, and I took over 400+, this particular image is my hands down favorite.
That might seem a little strange, especially since there aren't any battling bots in view. There are several reasons why it speaks to me so deeply and completely. First, it shows two different generations, separated by several decades, yet sharing the same pure pleasure and concentration, connected by their love of the sport and the sense of accomplishment that comes from competing at this level.
Second, the gentleman smiling with intense pleasure behind the table is Terukazu Nishimura, the founder of the ROBO-ONE humanoid robot entertainment movement.
Over ten years ago he had a dream. That, in itself, isn't unusual. Everyone has dreams and aspirations. But Nishimura took it on himself to make his dream a reality. It didn't come easy. He had to take a lot of personal and financial risks, and he put his own personal credibility on the line as he convinced, cajoled, and encouraged everyone from major companies like Bandai and Sunrise, to smaller companies including Kondo and Futaba, plus a raft of hobbyists to get involved.
Of course it took the hard work and dedication of over a hundred volunteers and participants over the past decade to make the ROBO-ONE movement the success it is today.
Without Nishimura, without his dream, and without his unflagging focus and commitment, none of this would have happened. The lives of so many robot fans and builders, not just in Japan but all over the world, would be less enriched and a little sadder. His gift, his dream, has already blessed and inspired several generations.
So, when I see this photo, when I see the broad, happy, engrossed smile on Nishimura's face, I know, and I'm sure he knows, that it's all been worthwhile. I hope he understands the debt of gratitude and appreciation that all of us owe to him.
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.
One thing I really enjoy about robot competitions like RoboGames and Mech Warfare is the friendliness and openness of the participants. Even when they are trying their best to defeat, and potentially demolish, each other's robots, they still manage to keep it polite and friendly.
Take for example, the Shibata - Che Edoga Mech Warfare Hardcore rivalry...
Naoki Maru and his son have transformed their life-sized King Kizer humanoid robot into a real life version of the battling robots from Real Steel.
Gakken, a leading Japanese publisher of science related magazines and low cost kits just released Volume 33 in the popular Otona No Kagaku series. I was surprised, and very pleased to find Kazuki Sumi's humanoid robot creation, Doka Harumi with a feature article in the magazine.
Like most of the Gakken publications, Volume 33 centers around a simple kit, this time it's a miniature version of the Roomba robot that includes enough functionality to effectively mimic it's real life counterpart. The design is rather unique in that it can accomplish all of that with just minimal electronics and only one drive motor - but more on that in another post.
In addition to the robot kit, Gakken always includes a beautifully executed full color magazine chock full of articles to interest and inspire readers. Doka Harumi, a top competitor in the ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Robot Project competitions, was an excellent choice.