Surprising ROBO-ONE Light Robot Design Pushes The Rules (Video)

Robo-one Light

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.

In the beginning, when the number of competitors was less than two dozen, it was easy to keep everyone on the same page, and of course there was some unstated social group pressure to conform. But, with the top prizes worth several thousand dollars, and the glory of winning the world’s top humanoid robot competition, some of the builders got creative and pushed the limited rule set a bit.

Over time, with each new unique quasi-humanoid design that popped up, the organising committee would tweet the ROBO-ONE rules to make sure that the focus on humanoids was never abandoned.

Now, more than a decade later, the vast majority of ROBO-ONE competitors follow the basic design guidelines developed by the first competitors like Koichi Yoshimura, lead designer for the Kondo KHR-1 first humanoid robot kit.

However, there are always some robot builders that see an opportunity to stretch the rules a bit. Just because a robot has to look and act like a humanoid when it enters the ring, there’s no rule that says it has to keep that shape once the referee shouts “Fight!”

No doubt there will be another revision to the rulebook before the next competition six months from now. And, also without a doubt, there will be another robot designer that will have figured out a way to take advantage of the new rules.

Related links: ROBO-ONE Light-Unique Configuration Pushes The Rules - YouTube #robotsdreams

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ROBO-ONE Light Robots Practice During Break Time (Video)

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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.

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Currently, the ROBO-ONE Light event, consisting primarily of entry level robot builders using humanoid robot kit configurations typically from one of the event sponsors, is held on a Saturday. To keep the action going, and to process the large number of competitors, the round time and downs are reduced compared to the regular ROBO-ONE event.

Saturday afternoon, after the ROBO-ONE Light matches wrap up, the ROBO-ONE entrants have to compete in a 9 meter dash race with the fastest robots qualifying to return on Sunday and battle each other for the championship. It’s not unusual to have 150 or more robots attempting the dash, though there are only 48 slots available including some competitors that are already seeded by winning one of the regional competitions.

That means that on Saturday, the halls and hallways are jam packed with robot builders from both events. Whenever there’s a break in the action for more than just a few minutes, builders rush to try out their robots in the actual competition ring. Of course, they have tested their robots at home, or at local events. But the actual ring conditions can vary quite a bit.

The ring floor may be more slippery, or it may have a slight tilt, seam, or other imperfections. It’s important that they log as much time as possible under actual event conditions in order to practice and sort out unexpected problems before they go into combat.

Related links: ROBO-ONE Light 10 #robotsdreams
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Meanwhile in Japan – NAO Robot Bank Assistant in English (Video)

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Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo, Japan is evaluating the use of an Aldebaran NAO humanoid robot to provide information and assistance to branch customers.

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Since the robot can recognize and parse verbal questions as well as speaking a number of languages, they hope that by using the robots the bank will be able to provide a high level of consistent customer support. During the evaluation the questions and responses have deliberately been limited to basic items like describing the location of ATMs; information on opening a new account, and similar common customer inquires.

Later, assuming that the bank decides to deploy the robot assistant system throughout their network of hundreds of branches in Japan, the question/response database will be expanded based on actual customer interactions.

In this video, the robot is switched from Japanese to English. When it is asked about ATMs in the branch, it recognizes the question and explains where the ATMs are located. Then it is asked about the process of opening a new account. The robot explains that the new account process requires explaining quite a few detailed items and suggests that the customer bring someone along that can understand and speak Japanese.

In addition to the improved customer service and satisfaction, the bank will also benefit from a public image indicating that it is adopting the latest state-of-the-art technology. This can be a major plus for Japanese banks that are traditionally perceived to be old-fashioned and reserved, an image that can be a negative factor in attracting younger new customers.

Related links: NAO Robot Bank Assistant in English - YouTube #robotsdreams
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INSIDE ROBO-ONE: Champion Robots Garoo and Chrome Kid Check-in (Video)

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While the basic concept underlying the ROBO-ONE initiative is to promote humanoid robot entertainment along with education. over the years many competitors have tried to design robots that take advantage of the rule.

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Currently, each robot is carefully inspected as part of the event check-in process to insure that they comply with all the regulations including height, weight. balance, arm reach, design, and a number of other factors. 

The two robots featured in this video, Garoo and Chrome Kid, have partcipated for many years and typically capture some of the top awards including the ROBO-ONE Championship multiple times.

Related links: ROBO-ONE 26 Competition #robotsdreams
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ROBO-ONE Light 10 Humanoid Robot Competition Behind-the-Scenes Tour (Video)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Related links: ROBO-ONE 10 #robotsdreams

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ROBOT JAPAN 7th Competition Scheduled for January 19, 2014


The 7th Robot Japan competition will take place Sunday, January 19, 2014 at the Buddhist Hall in the Tsukiji district of Tokyo. Events will include ROBO-ONE style robot kung-fu in both the light and bantam weight categories, performance, dance, and marathon race.

The doors open at 11:00 am and typically run until around 5:00 pm with a 1 hour break for lunch. The event is open to the general public with an adult ticket price set at 1,500 yen.


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You Don’t Go To A Robot Restaurant For The Food! (Video)

robot restaurant

Robot fans have a new mecca and excuse to make the trek to Japan. There's a new 'Robot Restaurant' in the Kabukicho district of Tokyo that will knock your socks off. Featuring giant female mechas, a light show that runs the risk of burning your eyes out, golden toilets, and what appears to be a pretty run of the mill Japanese bento lunchbox. But no one comes here for the food.

Admission, which includes the opportunity to get your photo taken riding/controlling one of the mechas, a one hour show, and the lunchbox, runs just under USD$40. Checkout the full tour in the video below.


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