Archives: March 2009

Asimo robot controlled by human thought (video)

31 Mar 2009

Honda's brain-machine interface for robot control --

Honda has developed new brain-machine interface (BMI) technology that allows humans to control the Asimo humanoid robot simply by thinking certain thoughts.

The BMI system, which Honda developed along with Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) and Shimadzu Corporation, consists of a sensor-laden helmet that measures the user's brain activity and a computer that analyzes the thought patterns and relays them as wireless commands to the robot. (Watch video.)

When the user simply thinks about moving his or her right hand, the pre-programmed Asimo responds several seconds later by raising its right arm. Likewise, Asimo lifts its left arm when the person thinks about moving their left hand, it begins to walk when the person thinks about moving their legs, and it holds its hand up in front of its mouth when the person thinks about moving their tongue.

Honda BMI -- The high-precision BMI technology relies on three different types of brain activity measurements. EEG (electroencephalography) sensors measure the slight fluctuations in electrical potential on the scalp that occur when thinking, while NIRS (near-infrared spectroscopy) sensors measure changes in cerebral blood flow. Newly developed information extraction technology is used to process the complex data from these two types of sensors, resulting in a more accurate reading. The system reportedly has an accuracy rate of more than 90%.

The use of EEG and NIRS sensors makes the new system more compact than previous BMI systems that rely on bulkier fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology. Although the system is small enough to be transported from place to place, the developers plan to further reduce the size.

Honda, which has been conducting BMI research and development with ATR since 2005, is looking into the possibility of one day using this type of interface technology with artificial intelligence and robotics to create devices that users can operate without having to move.

[Source: Honda press release]

Terminator robots in Tokyo (pics)

30 Mar 2009

In conjunction with the upcoming release of Terminator Salvation (T4), an exhibit featuring the cyborgs from the Terminator series is now on display at Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) in Tokyo.

T-600 endoskeleton from Terminator 4, exhibited at Miraikan --
T-600 endoskeleton from Terminator Salvation [+]

Entitled "Terminator Exhibition - Battle or Coexistence? Robots and Our Future," the exhibit purportedly aims to inspire visitors to think about the relationship between humans and machines. Mostly, though, it offers a unique glimpse at the models and costumes used in the filming of the movies, along with details about the makeup and special effects.

T-800 exhibited at Miraikan, Tokyo --
T-800 endoskeleton [+]

In the first Terminator movie, which takes place in Los Angeles in 1984, a T-800 cyborg assassin is sent back in time from the year 2029 by Skynet, an artificially intelligent military computer system that rules the world under an army of cyborgs. Its mission is to erase the existence of John Connor, who in the future becomes the leader of the human resistance forces against the machines. To alter the course of history in Skynet's favor, the T-800 must terminate Sarah Connor before she gives birth to her son John.

Terminator exhibited at Miraikan, Tokyo --
T-800 endoskeleton [+]

The T-800 cyborg -- played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first three Terminator movies -- consists of a metal endoskeleton under a layer of living human tissue. The robot has excellent learning capabilities, enabling it to understand and adopt human behavior and phrases. It can also mimic voices once it hears them. A slightly improved version of the T-800 -- the T-850 -- appears in Terminator 2 and Terminator 3.

T-800 on display at Miraikan, Tokyo --
T-800: Hasta la vista, baby [+]

In Terminator 2, Skynet sends the latest Terminator model -- the T-1000 -- to Los Angeles in 1994 to eliminate the 10-year-old John Connor. At the same time, the resistance forces send a hacked T-800 from the future to protect John. The T-1000, which is much more advanced than the T-800, has no endoskeleton and consists of a shape-shifting liquid metal. The T-1000 is not displayed in this exhibit.

T-800 exhibited at Miraikan, Tokyo -- T-X Terminator at Miraikan, Tokyo --
T-800 [+] // T-X [+]

In Terminator 3, the T-800 (T-850) is again sent from the future to protect John Connor. This time it does battle with the T-X, a super-powerful Terminator that combines the exoskeleton of the T-800 with the shape-shifting liquid metal of the T-1000.

Terminatrix at Miraikan, Tokyo --
T-X (a.k.a. Terminatrix) [+]

The T-X, also called "Terminatrix," takes the shape of a beautiful woman and incorporates a variety of weapons into its endoskeleton. In addition to conducting DNA analysis by tasting blood, the shape-shifting assassin can remotely control other machines and Terminators.

Cameron Phillips (TOK715) at Miraikan, Tokyo --
Cameron Phillips (TOK715) [+]

Other items on display include a reproduction of Cameron Philips (TOK715), a reprogrammed Terminator from the "Sarah Conner Chronicles" TV series.

The exhibit also includes a few props and movie trailers from the forthcoming film.

Terminator exhibited at Miraikan, Tokyo --
T-600 endoskeleton [+]

Set in the year 2018, Terminator Salvation will prominently feature the T-600, an early Terminator prototype. Unlike the T-800 portrayed by Schwarzenegger in the previous films, the more primitive T-600 features an endoskeleton covered in synthetic skin instead of living human tissue. At 8 feet tall, it is also much bulkier.

Terminator exhibited at Miraikan, Tokyo --
Moto-Terminator [+]

Also on display is the Moto-Terminator, a motorcycle-based death machine, as well as the Hydrobot (not pictured here), a menacing eel-like underwater robot.

The final section of the exhibit introduces a variety of Japanese robot technology, mostly in the form of text-heavy exhibits (Japanese only). However, an Actroid -- smartly dressed in a skin-tight black jumpsuit -- is on hand to liven things up.

Actroid exhibited at Miraikan, Tokyo --
Actroid [+]

Actroid exhibited at Miraikan, Tokyo --
Actroid [+]

The exhibit runs until June 28, 2009.

Giant baby robot spits fire on Roppongi (pics)

29 Mar 2009

Giant Toryayan at Roppongi Art Night --

Sculptor Kenji Yanobe's Giant Torayan robot, a 7.2-meter (24-ft) tall mechanical baby that sings, dances and spits fire, was sighted in Tokyo's Roppongi district last night. The fire-breathing robot spent the night on center stage at "Roppongi Art Night," an all-night event featuring installations and performances by dozens of artists at various venues in the area.

Giant Toryayan at Roppongi Art Night --

Giant Toryayan at Roppongi Art Night --

Giant Toryayan at Roppongi Art Night -- Giant Toryayan at Roppongi Art Night --
[+] // [+]

Giant Toryayan at Roppongi Art Night --

Giant Toryayan at Roppongi Art Night --

Video: Tape scratching by Open Reel Ensemble

27 Mar 2009

+ Video

The Open Reel Ensemble adds a unique twist to the old-school art of reel-to-reel tape scratching, with USB controllers that manipulate the switches inside the tape decks and with solenoids that create vibrato effects by tweaking the speed of the tape as it passes over the heads.

Alien squid vs. giant robots in tourism videos

26 Mar 2009

Ika robot vs. Tower robot --

The city of Hakodate, Japan has been producing official tourism videos unlike any you've ever seen before -- action-packed affairs starring famous landmarks as giant robots that battle a runaway mechanical squid hijacked by vengeful aliens.

The first video begins with an interesting factoid: According to a survey of 100 aliens, Hakodate is the number one city they would most like to invade.

+ Video 1

The invaders here are alien cephalopods from the planet Ikaaru, who seek revenge on the people of Hakodate for eating too much squid. The aliens hijack an enlarged version of Hakodate's tourism mascot -- a mechanical squid named "Ikabo," which was built by Future University-Hakodate (FUN) in 2007 -- and send it on a rampage through the city.

Angry alien squid from Ikaaru --
Angry alien squid from Ikaaru: "All they eat is squid!"

A pair of giant robots are called into action to protect Hakodate's precious historical buildings from destruction. Hakodate's Goryōkaku Tower transforms into a deadly fighting machine, while an enormous Chūkū Dogū (a treasured 3,200-year-old hollow clay figurine unearthed in Hokkaidō in 1975) awakens from a deep slumber.

Chuku Dogu --
Giant Chūkū Dogū wakes up

The city's star-shaped Goryōkaku fortress also joins the fight. After coming under attack, the fortress rises up from the flames and takes off like a giant spaceship.

+ Video 2

In the second video, the battle between the hijacked Ikabo squid robot and the Goryōkaku Tower robot rages on into winter.

+ Video 3

In the final video, the fierce battle appears to end as the Goryōkaku ship delivers a deadly blow to the Ikaaru spacecraft. But the fight has really only just begun -- another fleet of alien ships is fast approaching.

Hakodate appears to be under full-scale alien attack and its survival is in question. Visit Hakodate soon... before it's too late.

Toshiba tests phone-controlled billboard game

26 Mar 2009

Mobile phone-controlled billboard game in Akihabara

To promote its laptops and showcase digital signage technology capable of utilizing real-time data over the Internet, electronics giant Toshiba tested an interactive digital billboard in Tokyo last weekend that allowed YouTube users and pedestrians with mobile phones to play video games against each other. (Watch a video of the game action.)

Played on a digital billboard above the entrance to the Yodobashi Camera superstore in Akihabara, each game involved up to six players in a 90-second race to paint squares on a grid and hunt for Toshiba's cuddly Pala-Chan mascot. Mobile phone players followed the action on the billboard and used the number keys on their handsets to control the game's paint brushes, while YouTube players on computers used the arrow keys on their keyboards. (More video.)

To participate, pedestrians in Akihabara called a phone number displayed on the billboard before the start of each game, while YouTube users simply clicked a button on Toshiba's toshibanotepc channel (where the game is still available).

Winners who played via mobile phone in Akihabara received Pala-Chan parkas from Toshiba representatives stationed near the billboard site.

The company plans to use similar interactive billboard games to promote other products around town in the future.

[Source: Nikkei]

Battle of the Natsu-yasumi – Fumio Nabata

25 Mar 2009

"Battle of the Natsu-yasumi," a photo series by Fumio Nabata, presents a unique underwater perspective of goldfish scooping, a traditional game typically played at summer festivals in Japan.

Battle of the Natsu-yasumi --

Battle of the Natsu-yasumi --

Battle of the Natsu-yasumi --

Battle of the Natsu-yasumi --

Battle of the Natsu-yasumi --

The series was selected as a grand-prize winner of the 2009 APA Award sponsored by the Japan Advertising Photographer's Association.

See Nabata's website for more (and higher resolution) images.

16 offbeat space experiments for the people

20 Mar 2009

International Space Station --

On March 18, astronaut Koichi Wakata arrived at the International Space Station to begin his three-month space sojourn -- the longest ever for a Japanese spaceman. Although much of Wakata's time in space will be devoted to official research and maintenance duties, he plans to set aside a little free time for 16 offbeat experiments proposed by the Japanese public.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) selected the extra experiments from nearly 1,600 proposals they received after asking the public what tests they would like to see performed in space. The 16 experiments are listed here as questions posed to Wakata.

1. Calisthenics: Is it possible to follow an audio-guided workout program in zero gravity?

2. Backflips: On Earth, backflips take a lot of practice and leg strength. How about in zero gravity?

3. Volleying (soccer): Crumple a piece of paper into a ball and try kicking it around. How does the ball behave in zero gravity? Can you volley it?

4. Push-ups: In space, can you do push-ups while facing the ceiling or walls?

5. Cartwheels: In zero gravity, can you rotate yourself continuously like a windmill?

6. Swimming: Try to swim through the air as if you were in water. Can you move forward by swimming? If not, why not?

7. Spin like an ice skater: On Earth, ice skaters can increase their rotation speed by pulling their arms closer in to the body while they spin. Does the same thing happen in zero gravity? If so, what is the reason?

8. Folding clothes: In space, can you fold clothes and put them away as you do on Earth? It seems that the shirt sleeves would be difficult to keep in place. What is the best way to fold clothes in space?

9. Magic carpet: Try to sit on a floating carpet. Magic carpets are a fantasy on Earth, but are they possible in space?

10. Water gun: On Earth, if you squeeze a drink bag, a single stream of liquid shoots out through the straw hole and falls to the ground. How does the liquid behave in zero gravity?

11. Eye drops: On Earth, you have to face upward to put eye drops into your eyes. Is there a better way to do this in zero gravity?

12. Propulsion through space: When floating in zero gravity, how much power do you need in order to propel yourself around? Can you move simply by blowing air from your mouth or by flapping a hand-fan?

The next four activities are to be performed by two people:

13. Arm wrestling
14. Shaking hands
15. Sumo
16. Tug-of-war

JAXA plans to release videos of Wakata's experiments in July.

[Source: JAXA]

Video: Synchronized electric face stimulus test

17 Mar 2009

In his latest video, experimental media artist Daito Manabe choreographs a synchronized face dance for four friends by hooking them up to the Face Visualizer, a device which converts music into electrical impulses that stimulate the facial muscles.

+ Video

[Via: Daito Manabe - YouTube]