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Japanese robot creator dazzles audience with his ‘humanoid robots’

Thursday, 20 December, 2012

His name is Ropid. He is a little humanoid robot, just 38 cm tall, weighing 3.5 pounds, not certainly the type we see in American movies. But he managed to create ripples of excitement among the audience, especially when he jumped three inches off the ground, obeying the command of Japanese Robot creator Professor Tomotaka Takahashi.

Speaking at a presentation at the University of Wollongong in Dubai on ‘The Creation of New Robot Era’, Takahashi produced Ropid as his showpiece, as he described Japanese robot technology, including its cultural and social backgrounds.

Prof. Takahashi, who is the CEO of Robo Garage, demonstrated how Ropid responds to voice commands; he can get up, walk, run and jump. His humanoid robots are known for their fluid motions and sleek appearance.

Prof. Takahashi, who creates prototype from scratch, without the use of computers, explained the reasons behind making small robots. According to him, smaller robots are less vulnerable to accidents. His ‘Manoi’ robot has sold 1000 units and he is now working a new-concept robot that he expects to sell 100,000 pieces.

In the presentation, Prof. Takahashi also showed a video presentation on the world’s first female-type robot, which mimics feminine walk and moments. He also demonstrated robots playing football.

Prof. Takahashi leads Team Osaka, which competes in various robot competitions and events around the world, such as Robocup (robot soccer). Team Osaka has won the Louis Vuitton Humanoid Cup in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Speaking about the differences between American and Japanese robots, Prof. Takahashi said American robot are usually big and aggressive while Japanese like their reports to be friendly and docile.

“Today, robots are considered unnecessary. But this was the same for computers 15 years ago. Humanoid robots are going to play an increasingly important role in our lives in future,” said Prof. Takahashi.

He is the first robot creator to create a humanoid robot to go to space station as astronaut’s companion. Earlier the space station had all sorts of robots but not humanoids.

Prof. Takahashi spoke about the 4.5-ounce, 6.7-inch robot mascot he created for Panasonic's Evolta line of alkaline batteries (the longest lasting of its type according to the Guinness Book of World Records), which climbed a 1,500-ft. Grand Canyon cliff on May 24, 2008, powered by a pair of Evolta batteries, and used a tiny rope to ascend the cliff face in 6 hours and 45 minutes.

Introducing the speaking, Mr. Isao Kishi, Acting Consul-General of Japan, described Professor Takahashi as one of the most prominent robot creators in Japan and introduced that robot technology was one of the fields in which Japan played leading roles.

Prof. John Patterson, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Wollongong in Australia, in his welcome address, urged the students to seek inspiration from men like Prof. Takahashi.

The lecture/demonstration was organised by the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering, UOWD, in association with the Consulate General of Japan and the Japan Foundation.