Universities plan to build android of Japanese literary great Soseki Natsume

RocketNews 24:

Soseki Natsume: writer, a man long dead. We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was: better, stronger, faster…

With 2016 marking the 100th anniversary of his death and next year celebrating his 150th birthday, this is perhaps an appropriate time to honor one of Japan’s greatest writers, Soseki Natsume. And what better way to pay tribute to the author of classics such as Kokoro and I Am a Cat than by making a robot of him?

That’s exactly what the Nishogakusha University Graduate School is planning. In 1881, a young Natsume was enrolled there and heavily influenced by their teachings of Chinese poetry and Confucianism. And to celebrate the institution’s 140th anniversary they are hoping for his return, only this time as “Soseki Android.”

First, a team of students at Nishogakusha will conduct in-depth research into Natsume’s life, revisiting not only his extensive written works and life story but also gathering information about his physical appearance and size for an accurate android. To help out, major newspaper Asahi Shimbun has agreed to allow them access to their large collection of photos and works of their former employee Soseki Natsume.

▼ Old-timers in Japan may remember Natsume as the guy on the 1,000 yen bill 

Once the necessary information has been gathered, a team at the Osaka University Graduate School of Engineering Science will take on the challenge of building Soseki Android with the assistance of robotics company A-Lab, who made headlines with their Asuna android last year.

The sound of Soseki Android will be extracted from samples of his grandson Fusanosuke Natsume’s voice.

When the robot is complete, they hope to program him to give lectures at universities, high schools, and junior high schools. Understandably, a robotic Soseki Natsume might be a little too intense for elementary school kids.

The aim is to breathe life into his works by allowing the students to witness Soseki Natsume reading and discussing them first-hand. It is hoped this will inspire them to read and write more, improving their language skills.

Japan unveils Laundroid, the world’s first laundry-folding robot

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RocketNews 24 (by Oona McGee):

If there’s a menial task that takes up a substantial amount of time, you can bet Japan is developing a robot for it. So far we’ve seen gems like the 24-fingered hair-washing robot, the floor-cleaning bot and the robot that feeds you tomatoes while you run.

Now, a new generation of self-automated robotic assistance is set to make life easier for families in the very near future, with an amazing new machine that folds your laundry.

This impressive new piece of technology, called the Laundroid, is a joint collaboration between Japan’s largest homebuilder, Daiwa HousePanasonic, and Seven Dreamers, a technical company that previously worked on the “Hayabusa” asteroid spacecraft and now wants to deliver “space quality” technology and products to people on earth.

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The sleek machine is designed to look like an ordinary cupboard. With Daiwa House involved in the project, it’s likely their package homes will include the Laundroid for homebuyers in the future.

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Attendees at the annual Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) trade show in Japan yesterday were treated to a demonstration of the Laundroid in action, when it folded a freshly dried T-shirt using image analysis and robotics built inside the machine.

By using image analysis, the machine is able to identify the type of clothing received, which then sets off the robotic processes required to fold the garment. Currently, the machine can fold T-shirts, collared shirts, skirts, shorts, trousers and towels. Socks remain the robot’s biggest challenge, although the makers aim to have this sorted by the time the machine is released.

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▼ The robotics remain a highly guarded secret, with the folding movements heavily pixelated during the on-stage presentation.

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With no need to sort the laundry before using the machine, it’s estimated that a full load of clothes will take approximately seven hours to fold, meaning the machine can be set before bedtime or in the morning before work.

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Pre-orders for the Laundroid will begin next year, followed by a release of beta models and then folding machines for commercial use. Following that, in 2019, the creators plan to release the final product, with plans to ultimately create a full wash, dry and fold system so users can reclaim some of the estimated 18,000 hours, or 750 days, that people spend doing laundry in their lifetime.

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While we’ll have to wait to find out how much the laundry-folding bot will be, we’re thrilled to know that this invention will be coming out on the market. Until then, it’s back to the laundry basket to fold those clothes!

Japanese artist HYdeJII transformed a Roomba into an art-making machine

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The iRobot Roomba has been given a new lease on life thanks to HYdeJII. The Japanese artist has transformed the humble house-cleaning robot into an art-making machine dubbed Mr.Head. Retrofitted with paint bottles and tubes, the design can zoom around a canvas to create its own unique pieces of contemporary art.

15 years old. Started creating works as a robot artist after being recreated a house cleaning robot manufactured by iRobot. Began painting in October 2014. His robot features allow him to paint with a unique and mechanical, geometric touch. “What is a robot’s identity, what is its sense of beauty?” He searches for an answer to these questions through his artwork. His most well-known works include Spring Worm Hole and Spring Starburst.

You can check out the paint-spraying Roomba in action below with behind-the-scenes looks at the creation of two of its most noteworthy creations.

Hajime Sorayama “Sexy Robot” standing model

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Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama has been drawing his “sexy robot” since the mid-’80s, solidifying his masterpiece work all over Japan and even in the States for publications such as Heavy Metal.
Now you can buy one “Sexy Robot” standing model for 150,000 yen (about $1,200). Limited to 100 pieces, the creation is 300mm in height, then coming with a signed guarantee of authenticity courtesy of Sorayama himself, and packaged in a special premium box. It is scheduled to ship in October.

Giant Gundam headed for Hong Kong

Unicorn Gundam

RocketNews 24 (by Aleisha Riboldi):

Citizens of Hong Kong, brace yourself. An exciting Gundam exhibition is headed your way. This summer, as part of a month-long exhibition in Hong Kong, a giant  Gundam statue – something not usually seen outside of Japan’s Odaiba Bay in Tokyo – will be on display.

This isn’t the first time that Hong Kong has hosted a Gundam display; two years ago, there was an exhibit featuring a stand-off between an RX-78 Gundam statue and a Char’s Zaku statue. This time around, the exhibition will feature several giant displays including a 1:3 scale statue of an RX-0 Unicorn Gundam suspended Wing Gundam, a three-metre (approx. 10-foot) wide S-06F Zaku II head, and two-metre (6.5 foot) tall Gundam Build Fighters TRY statues.

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Gundam suspended

According to the Gundam Global Portal Facebook page, there will also be the chance to meet director Kazuhiro Furuhashi and voice actor Koki Uchiyama from the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam UC. In addition, there will be lots of limited-edition model kits and items as well as a display of Hajime Katoki’s Gundam art which has never been exhibited outside of Japan.

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Occupying Hong Kong’s Time Square, the exhibit will no doubt be hard to miss. The event, titled “Gundam docks at Hong Kong II“, will only be on exhibit for a limited time running from August 1-31.

Haneda Airport to give their workers super-human strength with robotic exoskeletons

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RocketNews 24:

A number of developed countries around the world are experiencing declining birth rates, as people focus more on building careers and social life than on repopulating for future generations. While lower birth rates aren’t necessarily a bad thing — they tend to arise from increased education in a society — it can prove worrisome for countries like Japan, which experts predict will see a population decline of more than 20 million people by the year 2040.

With a skyrocketing number of centenarians and not enough people to support them, what’s a country to do? There is the option of recruiting more women into the workforce, or increasing the number of immigrants to fill in the gaps, but with so many elderly people on hand, why not keep them working by giving them the power to get the hard work done with robotic exoskeletons?

Haneda Airport in Tokyo has partnered up with Japanese robotics company Cyberdyne to give their workers the extra strength needed for the back-breaking task of lifting heavy luggage. The tool for the job? A robotic exoskeleton called HAL for Labor Support, HAL being short for hybrid assisted limb.

The company previously introduced a full-body robotic suit back in 2013, called HAL. This newer version is much smaller, and uses bioelectric signals from the wearer’s muscles to aid in movement, effectively allowing someone who weighs 110 lbs (around 50 kg) to easily lift up to 45 lbs (23 kg).

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The HAL apparatus itself is super lightweight and, as Cyberdyne states on its website, since “…the devices are designed so light that female or elderly workers can wear, they will encourage the participation of those various people into a society with a low birthrate and aging population.”

When you don’t have enough workers to do the backbreaking labor, why not bring in some robotically-enhanced elderly people to do the job?

While the device is meant to help people lift and move objects beyond their normal physical means, Cyberdyne CFO Shinji Uga also stated: “The main purpose of this type of robot is to prevent back pain.”

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In addition to the exoskeleton, Cyberdyne has also introduced floor robots (resembling giant Roombas) that can cart loads up to 400 lbs (181 kg) and can also clean airport terminals. Hopefully it won’t end up making any messes worse…

▼ Check them out in action

Real life giant mecha duel planned between USA and Japan

Otaku USA:

You may remember the 2012 announcement of a real, functioning giant robot prototype called Karatas, by Suidobashi Heavy Industries of Japan. A human pilot can actually sit inside the cockpit, drive it down the streets, manipulate its arms, and deploy its weapons. Intended as an “art piece” and not a military weapon, it comes equipped with a “LOHAS Launcher” designed to fire water-propelled plastic bottle rockets which “from time to time… will hit its target”, and a twin gatling gun which fires airsoft pellets at 6000 rounds per minute whenever the pilot smiles (yes, you read that right).

Much of this has to be seen in the demonstration video to be believed. Despite a top speed of only about 10 miles per hour, it’s pretty impressive to see it cruising through traffic. The heads-up display inside the cockpit looks like something out of an scifi movie, but actually works! Aside from being showcased in a few different art exhibits throughout Japan, the Karatas appeared as an enemy robot in the first episode of Next Generation Patlabor, and in a 2013 Real Escape Game event in Makuhari Messe, Chiba.

Inspired by the Karatas, an American company called Megabots Inc. spent the last few years quietly developing a competitor. They debuted their prototype in a video sent to Suidobashi Heavy Industries earlier this week, challenging the Japanese team to a robot duel planned to happen in one year’s time.

Designed with the concept of robot fighting in mind, the Megabot Mark II fires 3lb paint cannonballs at 100 mph and requires two pilots to operate. One has to question the utility of a paint marker that shatters automobile windows on impact, but hey – it looks really amazing! Unfortunately this capability may not get to be utilized at all anyway, as Suidobashi’s reply accepted the challenge on the condition that the contest take the form of a melee duel.

The major question now is how these mecha designers will manage to solve the problem of pilot safety while pitting these multi-ton monstrosities against eachother at close range. Will Suidobashi back down on the melee fighting concept and opt for a giant robot paintball match, or will both sides show up to the match with clever ideas up their sleeve for non-lethal robot melee weapons?

A robot and Japanese sword master square off in the Yaskawa Bushido Project

In a matchup you do not come across everyday, a programmed Motoman-MH24 industrial robot and five time world record holder, samurai master Machii Isao face off to determine the better sword wielder. Commissioned by Yaskawa Electric Corporation, the robot’s manufacturer, the video depicts the advancement of technical engineering, coupled with the incredible skill of Isao.

Check out the amazing footage by hitting play on the video above.

15 of the most amazing home-made robots, tanks, and vehicles in China

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RocketNews 24:

China is known as an industrious nation and, after pictures surfaced of one Chinese teacher who built a phenomenal “Iron Man” Hulkbuster replica in his garage, it seemed like the right time to take a look at some of the country’s most impressive home made inventions.

From full size, working airplanes to wooden, yet electronic cars, the Chinese have spent anything from a couple of months to several years, knocking up some pretty impressive modes of transports and robots.

Liu Fulong from the Shenyang, Liaoning province created a wooden electronic vehicle at home, which has a top speed of 30km/h.liu-fulong-from-the-shenyang-liaoning-province-created-a-wooden-electronic-vehicle-at-home-which-has-a-top-speed-of-30kmh

Yu Jietao, 26-year-old wood carver, also saw the potential in wooden vehicles and spent 100,000 yuan (£10,247, $16,010) on his invention. It can travel as fast as 30 km/h per hour.yu-jietao-26-year-old-wood-carver-also-saw-the-potential-in-wooden-vehicles-and-spent-100000-yuan-10247-16010-on-his-invention-it-can-travel-as-fast-as-30-kmh-per-hour

In the Shiyan, Hubei province, Su Daocheng spent two months building a home made mechanical horse to travel around in.in-the-shiyan-hubei-province-su-daocheng-spent-two-months-building-a-home-made-mechanical-horse-to-travel-around-in

A man only identified as Abulajon, in the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region in China, spent 8000 yuan (£820, $1300) to create the 0.3 tonnes motorcycle. However, measuring 14 feet (4.3 metres) in length and 7.8 feet (2.4 metres) in height, makes it impossible for him to drive it on the street.a-man-only-identified-as-abulajon-in-the-xinjiang-uighur-autonomous-region-in-china-spent-8000-yuan-820-1300-to-create-the-03-tonnes-motorcycle-however-measuring-14-feet-43-metres-in-length-and-78-feet-24-metres-in-height-makes-it-impossibl

He Liang went for the minimalist option and spent a decade turning a suitcase into a motor-driven vehicle. It has a top speed of 20km/h.he-liang-went-for-the-minimalist-option-and-spent-a-decade-turning-a-suitcase-into-a-motor-driven-vehicle-it-has-a-top-speed-of-20kmh

Here, an unidentified man from the Heilongjiang province created a home made 12 brooms tied in the rear to help him clean the road in Mohe.
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Yang Shijun, a 45-year-old manager of a construction material company, spent 100,000 yuan (£10,228, $16,098) and one year of his time to make this plane. Yang said he made it as a tribute to his father who passed away in 2011 but had been a pilot for 29 years.yang-shijun-a-45-year-old-manager-of-a-construction-material-company-spent-100000-yuan-10228-16098-and-one-year-of-his-time-to-make-this-plane-yang-said-he-made-it-as-a-tribute-to-his-father-who-passed-away-in-2011-but-had-been-a-pilot-for-
Meanwhile, Liu Shijie, a 35-year-old farmer from the Huaibei, Anhui province, took six months and spent 30,000 yuan (£3,074, $4,850) to make a homemade armoured vehicle.meanwhile-liu-shijie-a-35-year-old-farmer-from-the-huaibei-anhui-province-took-six-months-and-spent-30000-yuan-3074-4850-to-make-a-homemade-armoured-vehicle

Another farmer, Zhang Wuyi, 37, created a multi-seater submarine at home to help harvest aquatic products, such as sea cucumber. He sold his invention to sold to a businessman in Dalian at a price of 100,000 yuan (£10,248, $15,855) in 2014.another-farmer-zhang-wuyi-37-created-a-multi-seater-submarine-at-home-to-help-harvest-aquatic-products-such-as-sea-cucumber-he-sold-his-invention-to-sold-to-a-businessman-in-dalian-at-a-price-of-100000-yuan-10248-15855-in-2014

Yang Zongfu spent two years creating a ball container named Noah’s Ark of China. It is capable of housing a three-person family and sufficient enough food for them to live for 10 months.yang-zongfu-spent-two-years-creating-a-ball-container-named-noahs-ark-of-china-it-is-capable-of-housing-a-three-person-family-and-sufficient-enough-food-for-them-to-live-for-10-months

Tan Yong, a 44-year-old farmer, created a home-made submarine at a lake in Dangjiangkou, Hubei province. He spent five months building it and now it is capable of diving to a depth of 10 metres.tan-yong-a-44-year-old-farmer-created-a-home-made-submarine-at-a-lake-in-dangjiangkou-hubei-province-he-spent-five-months-building-it-and-now-it-is-capable-of-diving-to-a-depth-of-10-metres

Farmer Wu Yulu started to build robots in 1986 and, by 2009, he unveiled this rickshaw that is being pulled by a robot.farmer-wu-yulu-started-to-build-robots-in-1986-and-by-2009-he-unveiled-this-rickshaw-that-is-being-pulled-by-a-robot

In Beijing, self-taught inventor Tao Xiangli spent less than a year and 300,000 yuan (£30,750, $49,037) to create a home made humanoid robot with a remote controller. However, it is too heavy and too tall to walk out of his front door.china-invention-8

Xing Yile (L), a 26-year-old middle school art teacher, took two months to build a homemade replica of the Hulkbuster “Iron Man” armoured suit from the movie “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”xing-yile-l-a-26-year-old-middle-school-art-teacher-took-two-months-to-build-a-homemade-replica-of-the-hulkbuster-iron-man-armoured-suit-from-the-movie-avengers-age-of-ultron

A man in China identified only as “Xing” made this suit in a parking lot.

Meanwhile, Li Lei from Shanghai builds an array of “Transformers” robot replicas for rent and for sale.meanwhile-li-lei-from-shanghai-builds-an-array-of-transformers-robot-replicas-for-rent-and-for-sale

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