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

Hajime Sorayama  Sexy Robot  Standing Model
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

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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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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