Tag: ‘Panasonic’

Evolta mascot robot walking from Tokyo to Kyoto

22 Sep 2010

As a publicity stunt to demonstrate the durability of Evolta batteries, Panasonic's mascot robot is hiking the historic 500-kilometer (300-mi) Tōkaidō Road from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Evolta robot -- Evolta robot --
Evolta World Challenge III: Kyoto or bust! -- Photos via Sankei News

The Evolta humanoid, whose new design is meant to resemble an ancient highway traveler pulling a two-wheeled cart, measures 17 centimeters (7 in) tall and 40 centimeters (16 in) long. Constructed mostly of lightweight plastic, carbon fiber and titanium, the robot weighs about 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs). It is powered by 12 AA batteries and operated by remote control, and it can travel at a rate of 3 to 5 kilometers per hour (2-3 mph). If all goes according to schedule, the robot will complete the journey on December 10, after 49 days of walking.

Tokaido route --
On the 500-km Tōkaidō Road from September 23 to November 10, 2010

The Evolta robot is no stranger to endurance challenges. In May 2008 the battery-powered mascot climbed a 530-meter (1,740-ft) rope suspended from a Grand Canyon cliff, and in August 2009 it drove non-stop for 24 hours around the Le Mans race circuit, covering a distance of 23.7 kilometers (14.8 mi). Each feat earned the robot a Guinness World Record.

Evolta robot -- Evolta robot --
Evolta robot at Grand Canyon (2008) // Evolta robot at Le Mans (2009)

The current and previous versions of the humanoid were created by renowned roboticist Tomotaka Takahashi, founder of Kyoto University's Robo-Garage. The new robot features a hamster wheel-like design to facilitate movement over uneven surfaces, as well as a handcart that holds batteries. The batteries will be recharged once per day throughout the course of the journey.

Evolta robot --
Artist rendition of Evolta robot on Tōkaidō Road (2010)

The 500-kilometer (300-mi) Tōkaidō Road, which runs between Nihonbashi bridge in Tokyo and Sanjō Ōhashi bridge in Kyoto, served as Japan's most important transport artery during the Edo period. During its heyday in the 17th to 19th centuries, the road was one of the busiest highways in the world. In those days, it typically took travelers about 10 to 12 days to walk the route, weather permitting.

Tokaido road, 1865 --
Tōkaidō Road photographed by Felice Beato in 1865

In the 17th century, the Tokugawa shogunate set up 53 post stations along the route, where travelers could find food, shelter and other services. These stations are perhaps best known through "The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō" series of woodblock prints by the great ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige, who first traveled the route in 1832.

Shinagawa on the Tokaido, ukiyo-e print by Hiroshige --
Shinagawa, the first station on the Tōkaidō Road (print by Hiroshige)

The landscape has changed a great deal since then, and many of the old post stations have developed into towns and cities. The Evolta robot plans to pass through at least one station per day during the trek.

All of the action is being broadcast live on Ustream (morning to afternoon, Japan time).

The robot will also be tweeting its progress (in Japanese) at @evoltatoukaidou.

[Link: Evolta World Challenge III]

‘Power Loader’ exoskeleton suit

30 Sep 2009

Power Loader exoskeleton suit by Activelink --

Engineers from Activelink, a Kyoto-based subsidiary of Panasonic, are hoping to turn science fiction into reality with a powerful robotic exoskeleton suit that gives its operator superhuman strength.

+ Video

The so-called "Power Loader" suit -- which takes its name from the fictional hydraulic exoskeleton suit appearing in the sci-fi classic "Aliens" (1986) -- is built on an aluminum-alloy frame and weighs 230 kilograms (500 lbs). Described as a "dual-arm power amplification robot," the exoskeleton suit is currently equipped with 18 electromagnetic motors that enable the wearer to lift 100 kilograms (220 lbs) with little effort. In addition, the Power Loader's simple, intuitive control system employs direct force feedback, allowing the operator to directly feel the movement of the robot while controlling it.

Power Loader exoskeleton suit in Aliens --
Power Loader exoskeleton suit in "Aliens"

Not unlike the film version of the suit, which was used for carrying cargo around on spaceships and colonies, the Power Loader is being created to help humans with heavy lifting, particularly in construction and disaster relief operations.

The Power Loader is still in the development phase, but Activelink plans to have a marketable version of the suit by the year 2015.

[Source: Mainichi]

Fukitorimushi: Autonomous floor-wiping robot

07 May 2009

Fukitorimushi --

Move over, Roomba. Make way for Fukitorimushi, an autonomous floor-cleaning robot that crawls like an inchworm and uses a super-absorbent nanofiber cloth to wipe up microscopic dust and residue that ordinary vacuums leave behind. Unveiled at the recent Tokyo Fiber Senseware exposition in Milan, Fukitorimushi (lit. "wipe-up bug") is designed by Panasonic and incorporates nanofiber technology developed by textile maker Teijin, Ltd.

The robot cleans by simply dragging its nanocloth belly across the floor as it slowly crawls around in search of dirt. (Watch the video.)

Fukitorimushi, which moves around by flexing and stretching its body like an inchworm, uses "feelers" of blue-white light to search for floor grime. When it finds a dirty spot, the robot emits a red light and devotes extra effort to cleaning that area. After it has finished cleaning, the machine returns to its charging station to replenish its battery.

Fukitorimushi's body is covered in Teijin's Nanofront cloth, which is made of polyester filament fibers measuring 700 nanometers in diameter (about 7,500 times thinner than the average human hair). The nanofibers significantly increase the fabric's surface area and porosity, giving it superior wiping characteristics and the ability to absorb oil and ultra-fine dust particles less than one micron in diameter. The large surface contact area also increases the fabric's friction with the floor and makes it resistant to sliding. The robot relies on this increased friction to push itself forward while wiping the floor.

Fukitorimushi --

According to its creators, Fukitorimushi is also designed to engage the emotions and foster a closer relationship between humans and machines. The way the machine creeps across the floor may seem a little strange at first, but the designers say people tend to grow fond of the robotic creature after watching it for a while. In addition, the owner must periodically replace Fukitorimushi's nanocloth cover with a clean one. The designers suggest this task of looking after the Fukitorimushi may encourage a pet-like affection for the machine.

[Link: Tokyo Fiber '09 Senseware Guide (PDF)]

Evolta robot climbs Grand Canyon cliff

26 May 2008

Evolta climbs Grand Canyon -- On May 24, a 17-centimeter tall, 130-gram Panasonic Evolta battery mascot robot scaled a 500-meter cliff at the Grand Canyon in a publicity stunt to showcase the endurance of the Evolta AA alkaline battery, which the Guinness Book of World Records recently recognized as the longest-lasting of its kind. Powered by a pair of Evoltas, the robot hoisted itself up a 530-meter length of rope suspended next to the cliff, reaching the top after a grueling 6 hours and 45 minutes.

[Source: Kobe Shimbun]

Power Pedal robot suit

15 Jun 2007

Power Pedal robot exoskeleton -- On June 15, electronics giant Matsushita Electric (Panasonic's parent company) unveiled a wearable robot suit called Power Pedal, which attaches to the lower body and provides users with up to seven times more leg strength.

Once strapped in, the user applies pressure to a pair of sensor-equipped pedals to control the suit, which is capable of moving in one of six directions with each step. Power Pedal is also designed to handle strolls over rough terrain, according to Matsushita.

Researchers from Active Link, a Matsushita venture company, worked with Ritsumeikan University to develop a prototype of the powered suit, which is set to go on sale in August at a price of 20 million yen ($167,000) each. The company plans to cut the cost to around 3.5 million yen ($30,000) by the year 2015, as they aim to create a commercial product that can help the elderly and disabled to walk.

Matsushita also believes the robot suit could play a useful role in disaster relief operations, especially if combined with the company's previous upper body robot suit technology developed in 2005, which is designed to provide users with an extra 50 kilograms (110 lbs) of arm strength.

[Source: Yomiuri]

Panasonic puts the “pet” in hot carpet

01 May 2007

Panasonic's No-Constraints Carpet ---

At the Tokyo Fiber exhibition in Omotesando last weekend, Panasonic unveiled the "No-Constraints Carpet" (tentative product name?), an innovative hot carpet with the warm, fuzzy appeal of a beloved pet. The carpet's luxurious coat of faux fur (available in white, brown, or skunk-like black and white) houses a set of smart heating elements that deliver warmth only to the areas you touch when you cuddle it. Squishy, flesh-like control switches modeled after the paw pads of your favorite furry friend enhance the carpet's overall zoomorphic feel. Available in two sizes -- 1.5 meters (5 feet) or 7 meters (23 feet) -- the carpet also makes an interesting sofa decoration when not being used as a heating device. The patent is pending, so Panasonic has not yet released all the product details.

[Photo: IN-duce's Flickr photo stream]

Videos by Koichiro Tsujikawa (+ Cornelius)

26 Feb 2007

Koichiro Tsujikawa is a self-taught video artist who began as a graphic designer and visual producer for live concerts. Here are a few of his surreal works...

- Untitled (2004): This short film about an alien athlete was commissioned by Panasonic for the 2004 Olympics.

- Eyes (2004): This video was commissioned by Getty Images as part of The Big Idea, where filmmakers created short pieces from Getty Images content (check the link for other cool shorts). Soundtrack by Cornelius.

- Fit Song - Cornelius (2006): Household objects go crazy when stop-motion video meets computer animation. From the album "Sensuous."

- Beep It - Cornelius (2006): Also from the "Sensuous" album. More stop-motion madness with household objects.

Check out Koichiro Tsujikawa's homepage for more background info and links to other videos for Cornelius, as well as for UA, Rip Slyme, and more.

Aiterrarium: Remote-control gardening

12 Oct 2006

Aiterrarium --

On October 11, Matsushita Electric Works, Ltd. (Panasonic's parent company) announced plans to begin selling an indoor gardening system whose lighting, temperature and water supply can be remotely monitored and controlled via the Internet. The system, called Aiterrarium, is slated for release on December 20 and will initially target research facilities for universities and businesses.

The system consists of a growing chamber that is 50 centimeters wide and 1.2 meters tall. The chamber is outfitted with 190 watts of fluorescent lighting on the walls and ceiling, and sensors measure 15 different growing conditions, including soil temperature and moisture level. If a heater and automatic watering system are added, users can connect to a Matsushita server over the Internet to set ideal temperatures and perform watering. A webcam allows users to monitor growing conditions from anywhere in the world via cellphone or computer.

The system was exhibited at the 2005 World Expo (which may explain the "Ai" in "Aiterrarium," since Aichi prefecture played host to the Expo), where it received a favorable response, prompting Matsushita to make improvements and begin test marketing it to research facilities.

The standard system will cost 360,000 yen (US$3,000) plus monthly server fees, while the fully-optioned model will run 600,000 yen (US$5,000). The company is aiming for sales of 600 units in 2007.

In an effort to expand its business in the market for automated agricultural systems, Matsushita is developing remote-control systems for greenhouses, which they aim to release in April 2007.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]

Panasonic develops bamboo speakers

30 Mar 2006

Bamboo speakerPanasonic Electronic Devices (subsidary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.) announced on March 29 that it has teamed up with Doshisha University to develop speaker diaphragms using paper made from bamboo. Compared to speakers with conventional diaphragms that use paper made from softwood, bamboo speakers have a wider sound range and crisper treble.

Bamboo is lighter and harder than softwood, making it a suitable material for speaker diaphragms. To maintain the ideal properties of bamboo, high-speed grindstones are used instead of chemicals (which can cause some properties to be lost) to break the bamboo down into fiber.

Panasonic hopes to put the speakers on the market at the end of 2007. The speakers are expected to cost double that of conventional speakers, but the company claims that using bamboo can play a role in resource conservation because it grows faster than softwood. The company hopes to establish bamboo as a mainstream material for speakers.

[Source: Asahi Shimbun]