Doctors from the Showa University School of Dentistry have teamed up with Kyushu-based robot developer tmsuk to create a robotic dental patient. The female humanoid, named Hanako Showa, is designed to act as a training tool for dental students. In addition to wincing in pain when a dentist-in-training makes a mistake, the robot can roll her eyes, blink, move her jaw, and wiggle her tongue. To add to the realism, she slackens her jaw muscles when she grows tired. And she drools.
The robot research team was led by Waseda University professor Atsuo Takanishi, who previously worked with tmsuk to develop the KOBIAN emotional humanoid unveiled last year.
Hanako is now being used at Showa University to train and evaluate dental students. This month, 88 students tested their skills on the robot.
Researchers from Waseda University have teamed up with Kyushu-based robot manufacturer tmsuk to develop a humanoid robot that uses its entire body to express a variety of emotions. (Watch video.)
Named "KOBIAN," the android integrates features of two previously developed robots -- the WABIAN-2 bipedal humanoid and the WE-4RII emotion expression humanoid -- into a bipedal machine that can walk around, perceive its environment, perform physical tasks, and express a range of emotions. The robot also features a new double-jointed neck that helps it achieve more expressive postures.
KOBIAN can express seven different feelings, including delight, surprise, sadness and dislike. In addition to assuming different poses to match the mood, the emotional humanoid uses motors in its face to move its lips, eyelids and eyebrows into various positions. To express delight, for example, the robot lifts its soft rubbery hands over its head and opens its eyes and mouth wide.
To show sadness, the robot slouches over, hangs its head down and holds a hand up to its face in a gesture of grief.
According to KOBIAN's developers, the robot's expressiveness makes it better equipped to interact with humans and assist with daily activities. In the future, the robot may seek work in the field of nursing.
Robot developer tmsuk has unveiled a remote-control robot that promises a new way to shop from the comfort of home. A prototype of the telerobotic shopper -- a modified TMSUK-4 humanoid robot that incorporates a variety of cellphone communications technology -- was demonstrated on July 10 at the Izutsuya department store in the city of Kitakyushu, Japan.
In the demonstration, an unwell grandmother unable to go shopping with her granddaughter sent the robot in her place. Using an NTT DoCoMo video-capable cellphone, the grandmother was able to control the robot and enjoy the shopping experience through the robot's camera eyes. As curious shoppers looked on, the woman maneuvered the robot to the hat section, eyed what was available on the shelf, and had her granddaughter model a few for her before deciding which one to purchase.
According to tmsuk, this innovative type of "3D communications" technology brings us a step closer to a future in which telerobotic shoppers roam the fashionable areas of cities like New York or London.
Robot manufacturer tmsuk, Kyushu University and the Kanazawa Institute of Technology have teamed up to develop a robot that can sniff out the smells that accompany fire. A public demonstration of the robot's new abilities was held at Kyushu University on February 21.
The researchers outfitted a 60-kilogram (132-pound), 112-centimeter (44-inch) tall Ubiko -- a tmsuk robot originally designed to serve as a temporary receptionist -- with a first-of-a-kind set of olfactory sensors specifically tuned to detect the odors of smoke and ash.
In the test, Ubiko, which moves on wheels and has a slightly humanoid appearance (albeit with a pair of triangular feline ears atop its head), was tasked with patrolling four rooms, each with a different smell. One room smelled of perfume, one smelled of garlic, one smelled of cigarettes, and one was odorless. When the robot smelled the room with ashtrays, it identified it as likely to catch fire and sent a wireless message to security.
Kiyoshi Toko, electronic engineering professor at Kyushu University, says, "We want to increase the accuracy of the sensors and create a fire-prevention robot that can detect subtle smells that humans cannot perceive."
For now, the robot has no fire-fighting skills except the ability to alert the authorities when it detects a funny smell. This is probably a good thing in an office environment, for example, where Ubiko might wreak havoc by spraying fire retardant on heavy smokers or on innocent employees who happen to visit smoky restaurants during their lunch breaks.
A giant rescue robot with "feet" like a bulldozer and arms 5 meters in length is undergoing practical testing at Nagaoka University of Technology (Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture). Designed for avalanche disaster relief and snow removal operations, the robot -- known as T-52 Enryu (lit. "rescue dragon") -- is being developed by tmsuk, a Kitakyushu-based robot manufacturer. T-52 Enryu stands 3.45 meters tall and weighs 5 tons.
In the tests, which began on February 1, T-52 Enryu showed off its avalanche prevention skills by removing accumulated snow from the edge of a cliff. The robot also demonstrated its ability to extract a car buried under a bank of snow. Remote control operation is being tested at avalanche sites, where extreme caution is required to prevent secondary avalanches.
Tetsuya Kimura, an associate professor conducting rescue robot research at Nagaoka University of Technology, says, "In addition to performing avalanche-related work, we hope the robot will be useful in removing snow around the entrances to underground shopping arcades or tunnels." Tmsuk aims to put T-52 Enryu to practical use in another year or two. Testing will be open to the public on February 4.
A consortium of Kyushu-area businesses, including robot developer TMSUK (Kitakyushu), has developed a compact robot hand. In Fukuoka on January 9, a robot equipped with the hands demonstrated its dexterity by scooping candy into bags.
Each hand features three fingers, 20 cm (approx. 8 inches) long when measured from the controller located in the palm to each fingertip, and each finger is equipped with three motors at its joints. Yasukawa Electric, which participated in developing the hand, boasts that it is the world’s smallest.
The dream of developing robots for domestic use or for electronic product assembly is growing. However, the production cost for a pair of hands is equivalent to that of a luxury automobile. Lower costs should open the door to a wide range of business opportunities.