Tag: ‘Nagoya’

Video: Beluga blows (and sucks) air bubble rings

20 May 2008

Nana the beluga blows bubbles --

Nana, a beluga born at the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium in July 2007, enjoys creating air bubble rings under water. While it's not uncommon for belugas to make bubbles by blowing out short puffs of air, Nana has the remarkable ability to suck air bubble rings into the water by swimming near the surface and drawing in big gulps of water. (Go :55 seconds into the video to see this in slow motion.)

[Video: Beluga bubbles]

TPR-Robina: Toyota’s guide robot

22 Aug 2007

TPR-Robina, Toyota tour guide robot --- Toyota's new guide robot, formerly known as 'DJ Robot', has officially been named TPR-Robina, according to an August 22 Toyota press release.

Photos reveal a slightly more professional look (no more scowling eyes) to go along with the droid's improved ability to avoid obstacles and operate autonomously, while agile, jointed fingers enable TPR-Robina to grasp writing utensils and sign autographs. Further, in addition to being able to communicate using words and gestures, the 60-kg, 1.2-meter tall robot has an image recognition system that allows it to read visitors' name tags so that it can tailor its directions accordingly.

TPR-Robina will begin working as a receptionist and guide at the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall on August 27.

[Source: Toyota press release via Carview]

Toyota ‘DJ Robot’ quits band, becomes receptionist

14 Aug 2007

DJ Robo, Toyota's guide robot -- Toyota's "DJ Robot," a two-wheeled android belonging to a band of robot musicians that entertained visitors at the 2005 Aichi World Expo, has ditched its entertainment career for a job as a receptionist. DJ Robot's departure from the band comes as Toyota gears up for its debut of a new robot violinist this autumn.

The highlight of DJ Robot's entertainment career came at the 2005 Aichi World Expo, where it performed with Toyota's other musically-inclined Partner Robots -- a show-stopping bipedal android trumpet player and an ensemble of wheeled bots playing tuba, trombone, French horn and percussion. Unlike the other band members with their human-like artificial lips and dexterous hands that enable them to play brass instruments, DJ Robot has no special abilities other than the ability to rap, a skill that earned it a role as the group's MC. (Despite what the name "DJ" might imply, the robot has no turntable skills.)

Since the Expo, the 1-meter tall DJ Robot, which rolls around on a pair of Segway-like wheels, has been working to improve its ability to interact and communicate with humans. As a receptionist, the machine will use these skills to provide information, answer questions and show visitors around offices and exhibitions. DJ Robot's first gig will come at the end of August when it goes to work alongside human receptionists at the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall at company headquarters in Toyota City, which sees more than 400,000 visitors per year.

In January 2008, the droid will begin working at Toyota's Nagoya office on the 24th floor of Midland Square, an office and shopping complex at Nagoya station, while additional versions of the robot will be rolled out at other company facilities at later dates. Toyota has yet to announce whether DJ Robot will be changing its name to better suit its new role as receptionist.

With its move into the robo-receptionist industry, DJ Robot clearly follows in the footsteps (and wheel tracks) of Honda's Asimo and Mitsubishi's Wakamaru, both of which have tasted some degree of success. While DJ Robot lags behind the competition in terms of experience, Toyota is confident its control technology will enable the bot to respond quickly and operate smoothly in its new environment. For now, Toyota plans to keep the robot employed at its own facilities, and there are no plans to put any models up for sale or rent.

Interestingly, DJ Robot's departure from the entertainment world comes as Toyota prepares to debut a new android that can walk around and play violin like a human.

Toyota worked long and hard to develop robot hands capable of playing the violin. In particular, the robot's left hand requires precise fingers that can press the strings properly, while the right hand needs to constantly adjust the amount of force used when holding and drawing the bow across the strings. According to Toyota, the advanced technology at work in these hands could eventually be put to use in humanoid robots that provide nursing care. In other words, whenever this robo-violinist retires, we can probably expect to see it get a job at a hospital.

The violinist will hook up with Toyota's other droid musicians to form a "robot orchestra," which is scheduled to hold its debut performance this autumn as part of Toyota's 70th anniversary celebration.

[Source: Chunichi, Asahi]

Solid gold lobster

20 Jul 2006

Gold lobsterA golden lobster has been placed on display at the Ginza Tanaka jewelry store in Nagoya.

Crafted from 500 grams (1.1 lb.) of pure gold, the creature is a detailed life-sized reproduction of an Ise-ebi lobster (Japanese spiny lobster, or Panulirus japonicus). It measures 34 cm (13 in.) long and 19 cm (7 in.) tall. The asking price is 5 million yen (about US$40,000).

Ise-ebi lobsters are often bestowed as gifts on special occasions in Japan. According to a shop attendant, this golden crustacean can serve as both a celebratory offering and a good luck talisman.

Customers react in various ways when they see the realistic-looking golden lobster. Some of them say they expect it to start moving, while others say it looks delicious.

[Source: Asahi Shimbun]

Robot Museum set to open in October

30 Jun 2006

The Robot Museum, Japan's first museum fully dedicated to educating visitors about the robots of the world, is scheduled to open in Nagoya's Sakae district in October, according to a June 29 announcement by Osaka-based robot venture GYROWALK and Osaka-based real estate auction services provider IDU.

Robot Museum

Housed in a refurbished building that used to serve as an imported car showroom, the 2,600 square meter museum will center around an exhibition area entitled "Robothink," where everything from toy robots to industrial robots will be showcased in exhibits covering topics from robot history to the latest in robot technology. Some of the robots that enjoyed the limelight of the 2005 Aichi Expo, held just outside Nagoya, will be prominently featured.

The museum will also include a shopping area offering robot-related goods, as well as a cafe restaurant set in a near-future style environment where robots coexist peacefully with humans. (Advice: To maintain this peace, make sure to leave your droid waiter a generous tip.)

The entrance fee for the museum has yet to be determined.

[Sources: Yomiuri Shimbun, Nikkei Shimbun]