Robots That Jump

Robot Bodies Needed Before Robot Minds

Phony Robot Report

Now, for a perfect example of the “emperor has no clothes” quality of large parts of Japanese robotics. I’m not referring to the more serious work, like that done by Honda on the Asimo , or the HRP series (minus the creepy girl sex-robot). What’s the popular word? Phony Robots.

Case in point: this silly metal puppet:

Japanese electronics company Suidobashi Heavy Industry unveils its latest robot ‘Kuratas’ as a crowd of people take photographs at the Wonder Festival in Chiba.

If you brave the “preroll” and “postroll” commercials, you’ll see a gundam-like metal puppet. A cute young woman climbs up the side, and – surprise! – the door on the top opens to reveal a place where she can sit. Not a control area, (after all, she’s a girl) but somewhere she can be locked in. Once the top closes on her, she does get a 2-inch wide window to look out, however….

Then the real action starts. Like so-called “robots” dating back to Electro in the 1939 world’s fair, the is a remote-controlled, tele-operated device. Someone with a joystick operates the top, and the “body” swivels and the arms move (a little).

All for > 1 million dollars…

Does it walk? Of course not. It can’t walk, because no technology today could move a heavy, 13-foot tall robot on two legs in a way that was safe for a passenger. We don’t have that abilityt, yet. Even if the software was available, the hardware isn’t up to the task. Today’s robots have trouble moving, and they weigh under 100 pounds. In fact, recent work has been to make the robot ever-lighter, since the problems with keeping a heavy robot upright haven’t really been solved.

Note how a 250 pound football player doesnt’ have the same problem. A soccer player is a Human that Jumps, out of the reach of any Robot.

But isn’t it OK to pretend? Yes, if we understand that this is a fairy tale, and there are no useful humanoid robots “around the corner. But a pop culture devoid of of magic and religion creates it under a different name. This dumb metal puppet is popular because of the prophecy of humanoid robots, not because of any advance in technology.

And another bit of fantasy – check out this link, showing a woman, Molly Wood of “Always On” at CNet, being served by an animated water-heater:

This example isn’t quite as aweful as the first. The creators understand that making a robot walk is extremely difficult. So, they have their giant on wheels. The robot doesn’t try to pick things up in a capacity beyond a standard pick-and-place industrial robot. The Kinect interface is handy, especially if you’re trying to make the robot like it is doing something on its own.

And, as usual, wee see a tech-illiterate pundit awed by the robot. It is awesome, at least in the sense that the robot shows good pick and place capacity. It can pick up objects in an interesting way, including cloth.

But sushi? Comeon. This robot could not really make sushi without a lot of staged events. At best, it is a trained animal that can “shake” without understanding the context of why people shake hands. And that is giving it A LOT.

Prehaps you’d be better off with a blast from the past. The simple robotic RoboSapien can be had for less than $20 us on Ebay.

As usual, the “future tech” of robotics, is actually a thing of the past. It is like drawing of the future with air-cars sporting tailfins. One thing we can be sure of – any future Robot That Jumps won’t have any of these machines as an ancestor.



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