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    Robotopia Rising 2008

    Robotopia Rising

    Japan! Culture + Hyper Culture
    In February 2008, I had an opportunity to go check out the Japan! Culture + Hyper Culture event at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

    Being a center of the arts, the center had tons of Japanese performances and art displays for two weeks . . . and since the event is Japanese related, they also had robotics demonstrations events called Robotopia Rising! This is what I'll report on . . .

    Kokoro's Actroid DER2 greeted visitors throughout the festival, talking to them and even answering their questions. It used Advanced Media, Inc.'s voice recognition "AmiVoice" support, and a hidden room behind it filled with pneumatics, to create the human-like appearance and the range of gestures/facial expressions.

    Toyota Partner Robot was developed with artificial lips that move with the same finesse as human ones, enabling it to play the trumpet.

    Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd's Wakamaru can converse with people via voice and facial recognition with a vocabulary of up to 10,000 Japanese words. Unfortunately it wasn't so interesting beyond getting children to exercise for 5 seconds . . .

    And of course, no robot demo would be complete without Asimo rebelling against orders from humans . . . Ok actually Asimo just stopped working. The poor lady kept saying whatever came to mind for like 5 minutes straight until she finally gave up and they called off the show . . .

    i-SOBOT, the 'world's smallest biped', was there . . .

    Aibo was there too . . . but I'm too lazy to post his video . . .


    I got an opportunity to personally meet Tomotaka Takahashi, the creator of several famous biped robots, while he was in DC. Takahashi also gave a talk about his FT, MANOI, Chroino, VisiON, and Tachikoma projects. This video is a demo he gave.

    I also got an opportunity to meet Timothy Hornyak, author of Loving the Machine. This is a video of him showing his MANOI robot (bought from Takahashi?) for me:

    The lecture series featured world famous robot creators, each of which gave a talk about their work. Unfortunately I was not allowed to film any of it, so I just have a few pics . . .

    ROBO-Garage founder Tomotaka Takahashi talked about his various homemade robots. Yeap, apparently he doesn't have access to CNC machines and injection molders like I do, yet still makes impressive bots! As for the nice plastic plating on his bots - homemade vacuum forming. He put a lot of effort in measuring how level the table was before the demonstration, so I'm assuming he doesn't have sensors in his bots yet . . .

    Tomotaka Takahashi

    Dr. Takanori Shibata, the creator of Paro, talked about the value of robotic therapy. He demonstrates the purring stuffed seal as the solution for all the old and crazy people in the world =P

    Dr. Takanori Shibata

    Just in case you haven't seen his seal before . . . This robot is so cute you almost wouldn't stop it from taking over the world . . .

    Paro the Robot Seal

    Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, a leading researcher in androids with an expertise for making them move and interact, spoke about the future role of androids in society. I first ran into him in the elevator, before I even knew he was going to be at the event, leaving me a bit surprised. After a bit of awkwardness, I finally got the guts to ask the dumb question "Are you the guy that looks like his robot?" . . . I'm such a dork . . .

    All of the lectures were guided by Mr. Hornyak, who himself gave a lecture on how manga and anime strongly influences the robots built in Japan today. There was quite a lot of manga free to read at the event, some of it you may recognize . . .


    This is him and Ishiguro during the question/answer session. I was surprised there were several good questions asked by the audience . . .

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