Tokyo Damage Report

2008 robot fair!!!

2008 September 10th – ROBO JAPAN @ YOKOHAMA PACIFICO

Pacifico is the perfect place for a robot show – the whole neighborhood looks like it’s from the future. . .

I’d been to the robo japan tradeshow once before, at TOKYO BIG SIGHT. This time it was a lot smaller – all the industrial factory bots stayed home. No giant mechanical arms were lifting Toyotas or assembling cardboard boxes. But there was a lot of toys of the teach-your-kid-how-to-build-robots-at-home variety.

The best example of which is ELEKIT ! Their slogan: FOSTER THE SCIENCING MIND.

They make these toy kits that are not only hella cute, but they got the best names:


and of course, the LET’S PIANO!


Then, there was this guard-bot from ALSOK:

Besides looking like an amputated Robocop, it has face-recognition technology. You look at it, and it displays a picture of your face (on its chest). You can see the dude with glasses’ face in the monitor on the right – the upper right hand picture in the monitor is the "reference photo" of his face that it’s comparing the live video feed to. If he passes, the robot lets him in without sending an alarm.

Below, the HEART STEP from KOBA LABS.

This is not a robot – more like an assisted wakling system for kids with weak legs – Polio, MS, etc. The user controls a set of mechanical legs using a little hand-held interface that looks like old-school nintendo.

below, WAKAMARU from mitsubishi.

It’s supposed to be one of those home companion-butler-friend-bots that they’ve been promising us for as long as they’ve been promising us jet-packs. So far the wakamaru’s big achievement is to move its arms to mimic the owner’s motions. Don’t quit your day job.

Below: A doorway in the convention center . . . how rad is this??

Ta – daa!

Below, robots that play laser tag. If one gets hit, it automatically falls down!

Below, possibly the most advanced thing in the whole place:

See that little dot inside the plastic bubble? That’s the BURUKURU (not to be confused with the BURAKUMIN!) Burukuru is a 1.5CM robot. You control it with your cellphone. Not only that, it comes with a text-adventure game. Also on your cellphone. In the game, you’re a cadet at some sort of Space Academy, and the only way to move up a level (Graduating, winning the Space Prom, getting the girl, etc.) is to make the BURUKURU do a series of moves in real life. The game will issue some sort of challenge, like "make it dance!" or "Make it do a backflip and then crawl in a perfect Isocoles triangle shape!" . . .and the CAMERA IN YOUR CELLPHONE takes a movie of the robot as you control it. And then the game analayzes the movie your camera-phone took, to see if you passed the challenge.

I get exhausted just reading about it. It’s so gleefully, pointlessly complex, almost like a parody of Neil Stephenson or something.

Below, somehow you KNEW that THIS would be here:

The HK Roomba.

Also, Business Design, makers of the IFBOT, proudly presented their newest creation:


It has a basic face-recognition technology. If you input a picture of your face, and then stand in front of it for 5 minutes it’ll eventually call out your name and raise its little paw in greeting. Also, it can understand certain commands, like "Sing." (an obvious reference to HAL 9000, although why they’d pick such a fucked-bot to emulate is kind of disquieting) It has a repitoire of songs. It also has a button on the bow, which i think is self-destruct? You can put it by the door, and if it senses that you’re opening the door, it’ll automatically call out, good bye. That kind of thing. The robot by itself is cute, but the promotional literature is pretty horrifying:

These elderly shut-ins – their family can’t stand them so they buy them a cat-shaped robot and send them off to some hotel. Jesus, it makes me want to cry. Plus these photos have the same unnerving quality as the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Presence, don’t they?

Below, the maze-bots: ROBO Q from TOmy.

Tomy is the same company that makes the karaoke-ipod! Their whole page is amazing.

Below, wtf?? At first, I thought this was just "weird-for-the-sake-of-weird," but then I realized. .. this is a MINE-SWEEPER BOT!

The ball on the front is designed to "step on" the mines and activate them.

more minesweeper bots:

They always show up at these robo-cons, as if to put a kind face on technolgy. But I can’t help but think that the countries covered with mines are generally the same countries that can’t afford rice and water, so how can they buy this totally advanced stuff? Maybe they can get a demo model for free, but it ain’t going to clear out the whole jungle by itself!

Below, the MKR-3

It’s not on the market yet. The goal is to have a hospital robot to perform routine chores – such as passing out medicine, hauling laundry, and carrying sick paients – so that the human nurses can spend more time doing important stuff, like sponge-baths, diagnoses, and enemas.

Below, the MUSCLE SUIT from kobalab.

It uses electricity to power some air-pressure-pneumatic "muscles" that allow people to carry more. See, that’s the problem with society today – people aren’t carrying enough shit around! They let anyone from the audience try it on and pick up these 10kilo bags of rice. rad! Best thing about it, though was their kind-of-borderline-masochistic poster:

Notice how it’s deliberately done in a western-comic-book style? Weird.


He was wack.

Seriously, fuck Noel.

Below, behold – KARFE LADY, the bewitching mascot of the Robotic Engineering department of 日本工学院 (nihon kogakuin) – a hellaciously-expensive-looking trade school. Check out their homepage – it looks like Hogwarts or some shit.


The celebrity guest speaker was ASIMO – who demonstrated that he could kick a soccer ball.

youtube here.

Big deal – Osaka robots have been soccer-playin’ for years.

I’m talking about the eighth annual ROBO SOCCER TOURNAMENT!!!! This is the real thing, Asimo!

As usual, it was blue team vs. red team: (east japan vs. west japan)

There was about 200 people watching. The robots seem to be built from this kit: the ROBOVIE-X , from vstone. They build the robots themselves, then trick them out with fashion accessories and sequences of moves that they program themselves.

The most famous robo-soccer player is in the upper left, with the afro and the snorkel.



I’m thinking the afro is not just fashion – these robots can kick and score (more often than human soccer players!) but they DO spend most of their time falling down, so a little head-cushioning could provide a vital advantage over the competition.


If you live in Osaka, don’t miss the fuckin’ ROBO FIGHT #8, November 2 and 3d. Osaka invented the proud Japanese tradition of battling soccer-bots, and soccer is probably the most normal competition at the robo-fights. If i lived there, I’d be like, DEEEYAM.

BTW, their slogan is, "Go To Future with myROBOT!"


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