EMMA Just Gets Better and Better (Video)

Our recent visit with Nakano-san, the creator of EMMA-U0A - the small yet fully functional humanoid robot, drew a lot of attention from our readers. People are very interested in EMMA's design, how Nakano-san did the fabrication, availability of the GWS servos that EMMA uses, EMMA's gaits, and quite a few other details.

At this moment, we're not in a position answer all the questions that were submitted, primarily because of other pressing schedule commitments. But, we don't want to ignore our faithful readers, so to tide them over until we can put together a really comprehensive article covering EMMA, we've included some additional video clips below.


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Kondo Expands The Akihabara Robot Scene

If you're a robot fan who happens to live in Japan there is no better way to spend a gray, rainy Sunday afternoon, then to hop on the train to Akihabara and hang out with other folks with the same interests and passion. It's great to be able to find out the latest news and rumors, pick up some spare parts and accessories, log some practice time, or just chat with each other.

Up until recently the number of 'gathering' spots was fairly limited. The Tsukumo Robot Kingdom is probably the most well known location, and we've certainly run into a lot of friends there from time to time. Still, it is a retail store focused on selling robot kits and components to an ever growing crowd of customers. The staff is certainly very open and helpful, but it really isn't a place where you want to practice with your robot.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, Kondo, the developer of the KHR-1 and KHR-2HV robots and a charter member of the ROBO-ONE organization, opened a new facility in Akihabara called "ROBO SPOT", about five minutes walk from Tsukumo, that seems destined to become an active center for the robot community here in Japan.


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Avatars, Marionettes, Puppets, and Robots

For those of us that are interested in the use of robots and robotic technology to create avatars, marionettes, puppets, and other similar 'beings', the Puppet Vision Blog is an invaluable online resource. Andrew, the PuppetVision publisher, keeps the content fresh, relevant, and always interesting. You'll find articles and pointers to a whole raft of both current and historical puppetry and lots of information on how they are created.

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Making A Robot Dream A Reality – RT Corporation

robot school
Many of us dream about chucking our "day jobs" and starting a business that would allow us to focus all of our time and energy on something we really love - something we have a deep, deep passion for. For most of us, it's just a dream. But Yuki Nakagawa decided to stop just dreaming. She, and her group, gave up their "day jobs", and have committed all their time and energy to making RT Corporation the leading robot school in Japan, and eventually perhaps the world.


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New Viper Robot Fansite

Sprocket2Cog, our favorite Roboraptor hacker, and Mindstorms maniac, has expanded his horizons to include the Viper Robot system from MicroBric. To share his learnings, and to encourage others that want to get their feet wet with robotics, he's created a brand new website specifically dedicated to the Viper and its robot relatives.


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Robot Hall Of Fame

The January issue of Wired Magazine had an article that attempted to list the “50 Best Robots Ever”, but kind of fell very short of the mark. At least it triggered a lot of discussion and debate over which robots really have been the best – and caused us to check out the Robot Hall of Fame. . .


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Modeling Maxwell

I put together a simple 3–D model of Maxwell to help visualize and play around with future modifications – before I actually invest the time and $$$ to implement them. Using SketchUp, it was easy to build a dimensionally accurate 3–D model, and to rotate it for viewing from any angle.

Maxwell is based on the Blue Base from Rogue Robotics, and has a Parallax Board of Education (BOE) controller. As I have time, over the next week or so, I’ll flesh out the model adding the controller and other details.




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Why Reinvent The Wheel?

I’ve noticed while doing research on various micromouse designs, that the designers (engineers?) often reference two sources of inspiration. One is an article written quite a while back by David Otten of MIT about how one of the early MITEE micromouse designs evolved. The second source of inspiration is RC model cars.

On most weekends, assuming the weather decides to cooperate, I like to go kickbiking. It’s great conditioning and exercise, and it gets me out of the house for a while. This morning (Sunday) it was extremely cold, but there was no wind, and no rain, so I put on a sweatshirt, muffler, jacket, and cap, and went out to exercise for a while. One of my favorite kickbiking routines is to kick through the local neighborhoods, through the bayside park, and then finally head up towards a major shopping center that has a Starbucks across the street. I buy a paper at the train station kiosk, then an iced cafe mocha grande, and spend the next hour or so relaxing, catching up on the news, and doing some people watching. This particular morning I also stopped by the bookstore and picked up a RC model magazine. I wanted to see what ideas I could find that might be adapted to robot design – especially to micromouse design.

It’s been years, perhaps decades, since I examined a RC model car in any detail. Apparently the technology and design has evolved quite a bit since I was very surprised at some of the models. It was definitely time well spent – a good investment. Here’s a short rundown of things that caught my attention:

Weight distribution – low center of gravity, batteries in the middle, motor to the rear giving more weight (traction) to the rear wheels. Servo controlling the steering is tilted at an angle (most robot designs tend to keep the servo mounting at right angles.)


Close-up view of the steering servo mounting and linkage.


Base plate is thin and low to the ground. In this case, it’s actually two separate plates. The base doesn’t have to be symmetrical – notice how the rear plate is offset to provide clearance for the motor gearing..


Different design but some of the same features.


Here’s an interesting diagram that explains how some of the steering mechanism works and how it’s controlled by the servo.


Here’s a very different design – this time with four wheel drive. The motor sits on one side of the chassis and its weight is counter balanced by the patterns on the opposite side. I was really impressed by the cut outs in the the chassis for the batteries and motor. They provide a lot of stability, and allow the center of gravity to be as low as possible. There were several other things about this design that stood out.


The effective use of cotter pins to secure some parts.


Here’s a closer look at the chassis cutouts I mentioned above.


The drive mechanism comes straight up the middle of the chassis.


This is a top view of the motor, gears, and toothed drive belt.


Side view of the motor, gears, and belt.


The drive belt runs almost the whole length of the vehicle.


It certainly seems possible, even probable, that I will be able to draw on some of these, and other RC model design concepts for my own robot projects.

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