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No Servant, Japan's Build-a-Robot Delivers Joy 103

isabotage3 writes to tell us that a new Japanese build-a-robot product may offer up a bit more participatory joy than models past. Even though it took this novice reporter over eight hours to assemble he still seemed to think that the end result was worth it. With a quick interface that allows everything from basic movement mapping to complex dance and aerial maneuvers, this robot seems to offer the user an experience far removed from the ASIMOs and AIBOs of years past. From the article: "You don't have to be a scientist, or even very smart, to play with Manoi AT01. But there's a catch: A lot of work is required to get it going. The $1,260 machine, which can walk, wave its arms and do other simple moves, comes in a kit that requires assembly — a sprawling, mind-boggling concoction of matchbox-size motors, plastic Lego-like parts, twisted wiring, 200 tiny screws and a 100-page manual."
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No Servant, Japan's Build-a-Robot Delivers Joy

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  • Wow... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Stormx2 ( 1003260 )
    And here I am with my lego monster and no money... heh
  • Is it just me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lurker187 ( 127055 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @06:29PM (#16149861)
    ...or does that "catch" sound like a damn good reason to buy it?
    • Except that a Heathkit of any decent complexity took a helluva lot more than 8 hours to assemble. Man I wish those were still around. Spent many an hour putting together dozens of those kits, INCLUDING a robot.
      • You are showing your age. Heathkits rule!
        • Heathkit dual-trace scope and an ADM-3A clone terminal. Rocked!! Others at work were stuck with Decwriters, I had my own, genuwine, 9600 terminal to beat up the Jumbo GA with.

          GA 16/440 (or was it 440/16? IAVO) Now there was a machine, something worthy of the finest programming talents to make it go, and entirely deserving to be crushed with a large hydraulic press.

      • by dalerb ( 935786 )
        I miss my Heathkit television. It displayed the channel you were tuned to right there in the upper right hand corner of the screen! Awesome.
    • by cp.tar ( 871488 )

      If I had a ten-year-old kid, I'd start saving money for a really cool present.

      Correction: eight-year-old kid. I'd save up enough money by the time he was ten.

  • by joe 155 ( 937621 )
    "a sprawling, mind-boggling concoction of matchbox-size motors, plastic Lego-like parts, twisted wiring, 200 tiny screws and a 100-page manual"

    call that hard? you've obviously never made an airfix plane. At least here you get all the screws/wires you need!
  • 100 page manual... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @06:34PM (#16149906) Homepage
    OK, so a good after dinner project for any decent engineer here.

    What's the big deal? RTFM, put it together, and play.

    I can't be the only one who did 10k-piece puzzles as a kid, and those only had a picture.
  • woohooo (Score:2, Funny)

    by User 956 ( 568564 )
    one more step towards the glorious rule of Robot Nixon. []
  • Video clip (Score:5, Informative)

    by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @06:36PM (#16149919) Homepage
    The article mentions that this is a Manoi robot. A spot of online searching leads me to this MPEG video [].

    • If that's the build-a-robot, that's pretty impressive for a little over $1000. It's no QRIO [], but also not the price of a luxury car [], which is what Sony said they'd sell the QRIO at if they had positioned it for the home (before ceasing development).

      This product could possibly provide years of invaluable fun and experience to a child of the correct age. I wish I'd had one as a kid! I'd still like one now.

    • I remember having a Kyosho radio controlled car. Seeing that video, it's very impressive, though doable with the technology that they have. A 100-page manual sounds like there may be a thousand steps to assembling this thing.
  • Oh, fooey! (Score:5, Funny)

    by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @06:40PM (#16149935) Homepage Journal
    I thought "Build-a-Robot Delivers Joy" was a euphamism for "custom built sex android."
  • a sprawling, mind-boggling concoction of matchbox-size motors, plastic Lego-like parts, twisted wiring, 200 tiny screws and a 100-page manual

    ... Sounds like fun.

  • other robots (Score:5, Informative)

    by Speare ( 84249 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @06:41PM (#16149943) Homepage Journal

    If you're interested in these things, you should also compare the featureset (hardware AND programmability) of other Japanese robotics kits. Two come to mind: the Kondo KHR-1 / KHR-2 series, and the Robonova series. There are others, but these two seem to have solid support and continual development. The Robonova has a nice feedback system, allowing you to hand-pose the robot and "snapshot" that pose, and then you string together all the poses into various actions. It's almost like you're programming it via stop-motion modeling.

    One area I think that most are weak is that of vision support. I'd like to work with recognizing various symbol targets (even barcodes or stripes) and get specific command feedback. Also, this scale of robot is just now getting familiar with gyro inputs, but it's not like it's suddenly able to walk up inclines and catch itself falling. They seem best able to work in a very simple flat-smooth environment only.

  • That is SIMPLE compared to my Tamia Frog!
    • Heh heh, the frog. That thing was so cute. I had a hornet, but I threw it away. My first R/C car was actually a futaba FX/10, which is basically the same shitty quality of shitbox. Anyway, try building a modern R/C car sometime, AWD, slipper diffs are always standard... I think just the front end of my schumacher SST2000 has more parts than your frog did :)
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @06:48PM (#16149988) Homepage Journal
    Now, that would be cool.
    • The hardest part of that would probably be the "search for part" routines. It would be pretty easy to tell it where to put any given part, but getting the part would be hard unless they were laid out very carefully, which would be almost as much of a task as building it.
      • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @07:37PM (#16150294) Homepage Journal
        There's a heck of a lot of things that are hard about that problem. I do, however, think we have the technology to do it. The Scale-Invariant Feature Transform algorithm is now 2 years old. There are open source implementations [] and many demonstrations of it being used effectively. This algorithm makes recognising parts something you can do in realtime. All the dexterity required to fiddle about with those parts and put them together has been solved a number of times, but mostly by academics who don't commercialize their research, so you'd probably have to solve that again.
        • Why do you have to solve it again just because the research wasn't commercialized? If it was solved by academics then the research would have been published. It just means you can't just go out and buy a prepackaged solution--what's the fun in that? If it had been solved by private companies then they might not release the privately conducted research, and you'd be forced to solve it again and possible get sued for solving it. Academic research, unlike commercial research, is shared with other researchers a
          • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:37PM (#16151358) Homepage Journal
            No. See, in academia, you solve a little reduced set of the problem. To commercialize your research you have to actually expand the work to include real world problems and until you do that, academic research is about a useful as poetry.
            • Then why do you have to "solve that again". So it's an incomplete solution, you are free to build on it. No? Even if not, every bit of information helps.
            • Only researchers that develop commercial products contribute to the advancement of technology? So Einstein made no useful contribution to the sciences or society because he never commercialized any of his research?

              Academia has always been at the forefront of science and technology. Commercial ventures only step in after someone finds an angle to make money from the innovations established by academic research.

              Where do you think all the first nuclear scientists came from? They sure didn't come from commerc

              • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
                We're not talking about breakthroughs here, we're talking about masters and phd students who "build a robot to play chess".
                • You said "academic research"--that means all research done at colleges and university labratories, including masters and phd students. The point is, their research is published and shared, not hoarded as "trade secrets" or patented inventions/methods. Being commercialized just means that you can go out and purchase a ready made product. That is of no use to those truly interested in robotics--such as robotics researchers and scientists in academia. What is useful is published research--most of which comes f
                  • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
                    Some of it is useful - to academics. But if what you're trying to do is build a product, most of it is not useful. Most of it is over-optimistic, self-congratulatory, totally disconnected from real applications, pulp. But it's not just academic research that is like this, when it comes to robotics even the commercial labs don't actually produce anything that is useful for building products. The few companies that are actually producing robotics products largely ignore the latest advances in the field, l
                    • So academic research isn't useful because it's too advanced, and therefor it's over-optimistic, self-congratulatory, and totally disconnected from real applications? Funny, most research grants are only given out if the researchers can prove that their research has real-world applications. Just because it may take 10 years for the research objectives to be attained doesn't mean it's useless. Academic researchers are basically tackling the hardest proprblems in the world of robotics today, and once they've s

                    • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
                      Honestly, I don't think you know what you're talking about. You've obviously never tried to take academic research and make a product from it, so do just bugger off please.
  • Picture of the Robot (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @06:48PM (#16149990) Journal
    Would have been helpful if the submitter included a link to a PICTURE of the robot, which the article didn't either...

    I found it here []. And in English.
  • presario (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "a sprawling, mind-boggling concoction of matchbox-size motors, plastic Lego-like parts, twisted wiring, 200 tiny screws and a 100-page manual."

    sounds like the last compaq I worked on.
  • by not a cylon ( 1003138 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @07:02PM (#16150079)
    Ummm, not to be a racist or anything, but wouldn't reading a 100-page instruction book translated from Japanese be considered torture in some countries?

    1. Please to put little engine 3X later than subassembly YY.

    2. Set us up the arm, but not to be rotated wisely.

    3. Enjoy super happy fun robot!
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @07:12PM (#16150139) Homepage

    The assembly is about typical for a Kyosho product. Try building one of their better 4WD R/C cars, with a working suspension, transmission and differentials to assemble. Very similar experience.

    The actuators for this robot are apparently still output-only R/C PWM-type servos. The competitive product Robonova [], though, has position and current feedback from the servos to the control computer, which moves it out of the dumb preprogrammed category into something that has potential for real autonomy.

    The sensor suite on these things is still below par. These things really need a 6DOF inertial navigation system for balance, which means three rate gyros [] (about $22 each) and three accelerometers [] (about $6 total). They need force sensing in the feet and hands. [] With that, a camera, and a WiFi link to an external computer, you have almost ASIMO-level hardware functionality. I'll bet we see all that in a year. It's the obvious next step.

    Then the problem is to develop software for robust legged locomotion. There's been work on that, but most of it is with expensive one-off machines. Once that moves to commercial robot hardware in the $1K range, progress will be rapid.

  • I can never get these things to function longer than a week.
  • ... the company will be offering a self-assembly human sized guard robot [] with automatic laser rifle.
  • by zoftie ( 195518 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @07:55PM (#16150391) Homepage []

    pretty cool robot. still not springy. once they will be able to use inertia in robots, instead of ignoring it, thats when robots will be life-like.
  • This 'droid is the *perfect* size and shape. You add a standard male doll face, red hair, striped shirt, blue overalls...

    Back when I was a kid, to scare your little sister half to death you needed to do some puppeteering with a My Buddy doll. Kids these days have such cool toys.
  • What is Japan's obsession/fascination with robots? Is that fascination really that much bigger than in other countries, or is that just my perception? Is there some historical reason for this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mgns ( 934567 )
      Last time I saw a figure on that it stated that they have about 600k of the worlds total 800k working robots in use. My guess is that they just see the labour cost reduction more clearly than most others and that this spurs interest in the non-commercial market.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Well somebody has to take the lead in this endevaour. I don't see a GUNDAM coming from the United States anytime soon. And I want a GUNDAM!
    • Japanese people's obsession/fascination with robots does indeed root in its history.
      To avoid going into detail: Lord Oda (anyone ever play shogun total war?) introduced the practice of using arquebuses in warfare at the battle of Nagashino [] they were therafter used with great succes in battle until the victory of Tokugawa (who succesfully scared his enemies into joining him through the use of firearms, in mid-battle) at the battle of Sekigahara.

      Tokugawa th

  • You should try Meccano. As they say in the movies, that shit is wack.
  • Now, I wonder if I can get my Robosapien to assemble it?
  • No thanks (Score:5, Funny)

    by JourneyExpertApe ( 906162 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @08:35PM (#16150588)
    "You don't have to be a scientist, or even very smart, to play with Manoi AT01."

    I think I'll wait for the Womanoi TA36-24-36.
  • Yuri Kageyama is a she, not a he.
  • For that much money it had better be at least five feet tall and look good in a wig!
  • I for one (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...Welcome our new custom built robot overlords

  • I want my Clan Built Timberwolf Mech damn it!
  • If you want a robot that's relatively cheap (~$500) and easy to build, check out TeRK [] (Telepresence Robot Kit). It's got easy step-by-step instructions and even pictures of all the tools you need, in case you don't know what a 3/32" Allen Wrench looks like. Pretty cool stuff.
  • This is just like the old Heathkit HERO-1 [] concept. Spend a fortune for a personal robot and have fun putting it together first.

    I also want to see something like a Mr. Wizard, Jr. [] appearing on a new children's cable station using this robot to explain how robots work.

    I want to see a new version of Starcade [] giving these things out as Grand Prizes on their show, like they did with the RB5X []
  • Yuri may have loved her robot like a proud parent, but until they can build one with kokoro [], it will never love her back.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead