Tag: ‘World-Expo-2005’

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]

Human resource agency hires Wakamaru robot receptionists

12 Jul 2007

Wakamaru ---

When Mitsubishi put its Wakamaru receptionist robot up for hire last month, it was clearly just a matter of time before the droid would actually find work. On July 11, People Staff, a major temporary staffing agency based in Nagoya, announced it has accepted 10 of the robots as dispatch workers and is ready to send them out to work at businesses and institutions in the Tokai area of central Japan.

The 1-meter (3 ft. 3 in.) tall, 30-kilogram (66 lb.) Wakamaru, who moves around on wheels and features a bright yellow shell and kooky smile, was developed in 2003 by Mitusbishi, who wanted to create a servant robot able to carry out a range of household chores. Wakamaru appeared at the World Expo in Aichi in 2005, and has since become one of Japan's most recognizable robots.

In terms of job skills, Wakamaru can recognize faces, carry on simple conversations with a vocabulary of 10,000 words, and perform simple manual tasks. More importantly for its expected job as a receptionist in offices and hospitals, Wakamaru is adept at thanking visitors for waiting and can sing songs as it shows the visitors to their destination within the building.

Wakamaru's paycheck can reach as high as 120,000 yen ($1,000) per day for short-term gigs, but the wage decreases dramatically for longer-term contracts, to as low as 3 million yen ($25,000) for one year, which is on par with a flesh-and-bone human temp worker.

A spokesperson for People Staff said, "As Japan's labor shortage expands, we would like to create an environment where humans and robots can work more closely together."

No word yet on whether People Staff has any plans to change the company name.

[Source: Sankei Web]

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]

Actroid DER2 fembot loves Hello Kitty

05 Oct 2006

Actroid DER 2 -- Kokoro, a Sanrio Group company specializing in the design and manufacture of robots, unveiled its new Actroid DER2 feminine guide robot at Sanrio headquarters in Tokyo on October 4.

Actroid DER2 is an upgraded version of Kokoro's previous fembot, Actroid DER, who has made quite a name for herself by providing services at a number of events, including the 2005 World Expo. Compared to the previous model, DER2 has thinner arms and a wider repertoire of expressions. The smoothness of her movement has also been improved, making it now even more likely for the uninitiated to confuse her with an actual human being.

Actroid's limbs, torso and facial expressions are controlled by a system of actuators powered by pneumatic pressure. Once programmed, she is able to choreograph her motions and gestures with her voice.

Kokoro intends to rent Actroid DER2 to companies and events. The basic rental fee is expected to be 400,000 yen (US$3,500) for 5 days, plus extra fees for technical support, delivery and choreography changes. For those who can't cope with a sayonara after 5 days, there is a late fee of 80,000 yen per day.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]

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UPDATE - Oct 7, 2006: Video via Robot Watch.

Aimulet LA: award-winning eco design

05 Oct 2006

Aimulet LA --

The 2006 Good Design Award for Ecology Design goes to Aimulet LA, a batteryless, light-activated handheld audio communication device with an outer shell made from molded bamboo. The environmentally friendly communication terminal was designed by the Information Technology Research Institute at Japanís National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

The name "Aimulet" is derived from the word "amulet" plus the letter "i," which denotes "intelligent," "interactive" and "infrared," as well as "ai" (which means "love" in Japanese and refers to Aichi prefecture, the location of the 2005 World Expo). The initials "LA" stand for none other than Laurie Anderson, whose Walk Project installation for the 2005 World Expo featured the Aimulet LA. Visitors to the installation used the device to receive audio messages as they wandered the site.

Aimulet LA is designed to be held up to your ear like a cellphone. When you stand over special LED emitters set into the ground, Aimulet LA receives the light signals via an array of spherical micro solar cells (called Sphelar by manufacturer Kyosemi) set into the bottom of the handset. Aimulet LA translates the signals into audio messages that are transmitted through a tiny speaker in the device. In Laurie Anderson's installation, visitors used Aimulet LA to listen to poems in four different languages as they strolled through a Japanese-style garden.

According to AIST, the technology at work in Aimulet LA can be put to use in public spaces such as outdoor exhibits and events, amusement facilities, train stations and parks, where it can be used in interactive media or entertainment. In addition, the low cost of the device means it could also double as an entrance ticket, annual pass or ID card.

The Good Design Award judges gave high marks to Aimulet LA's design concept for its ingenious blend of new technology and natural materials. The device also earned points for its lack of external power source, a factor that contributes to the creation of a battery-free environment. Being light-activated also makes it highly versatile, and its use of bamboo makes it easily recyclable and environmentally friendly.

This award marks the first time for AIST to receive a Good Design Award in Ecology Design. AIST previously received a Good Design Award for Paro, the cuddly seal robot recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most therapeutic robot.

Check out the Good Design Award page for more amazing designs.

[Source: AIST press release, AIST paper (English, pdf format)]

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]

NTT Docomo to use bioplastic in cellphones

04 Jan 2006

CornNTT Docomo's new FOMA N701i ECO, the world's first cellphone to incorporate parts made from plant-based plastic, is scheduled for release this spring.

In June 2005, NTT and NEC worked together to develop prototypes, which were used at the Aichi World Expo. The plant-based plastic is formed from polyactide, which is derived from corn. Kenaf (a fibrous plant) fiber is used as a reinforcing agent, improving heat resistance and strength. About 75% of the phone's surface area will use the plant-based plastic, reducing carbon dioxide emissions during manufacturing by 50%.

NTT will target environmentally conscious females with the cellphones, which will be pink. The price is expected to be about the same as the N701i. NTT will devote 1% of the purchasers' monthly telephone bills toward environmental conservation activities, such as its Docomo Forest campaign.

[Source: Mainichi Shimbun]