Story 2014-09-26 2SYG Soft robots and Kawaii Ball-bots

Soft robots and Kawaii Ball-bots

in robotics on (#2SYG)
What's new in robotics? Depends where you are. Scientists at Harvard are putting their time and energy into the newish field of soft-robotics, a field that uses elastomer – a type of polymer similar to rubber – to perform behaviors such as grasping a human hand or crawling across the ground. Eventually, researchers say that soft robots may be instrumental in things such as physical therapy, minimally invasive surgery, and search-and-rescue operations. By using soft robotics, engineers have created projects like a pneumatic glove for rehabilitating hand movement, a cardiac simulator that mimics the precise movements of a human heart, and a device for thumb rehabilitation.

In Japan, meanwhile, scientists are putting a happier spin on swarm robots – small robots that can communicate and interact to achieve common goals – by rolling out cheerleader robots that use swarm technology to animate and entertain.
The Murata Cheerleading robots ... look like dolls, have glowing eyes and balance on steel balls. Unveiled Thursday in Tokyo by components maker Murata Manufacturing, each bot looks like a cartoonish girl sporting a red skirt and short black hair. A series of rollers under the skirt keep the robot balanced on a ball or rotate it in a particular direction to move around. Under the afro, meanwhile, nestles an infrared sensor and ultrasonic microphones that help the robot detect objects nearby. Three gyro sensors control motion from front to back, side to side and in rotation. A wireless network is used to control a group of 10 cheerleader robots. They can perform precisely synchronized dance routines, moving into formations such as a heart while spinning on their balls.

It's all very kawaii, and of course intended to generate attention among Japanese audiences and visitors to trade shows. "We designed the cheerleader robots to cheer people up and make them smile," said Murata spokesman Koichi Yoshikawa. "Their features can be summed up as '3S': stability, synchronization and sensing and communication."
Now, what could we do if we combined those two technologies?
Reply 3 comments

Murata cheerleaders video (Score: 1, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-09-26 16:13 (#2SZ1)

One clever bit -- distance sensors based on ultrasonic and light sensors, using differences in the time of flight.

Re: Murata cheerleaders video (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-09-26 17:26 (#2SZ3)

It looks so easy, but must be so complicated. Kudos to the Japanese for pushing this line of tech forward. I'll curse them when the cute little kill-bots with rifles under their skirts come to get me, but in the meantime, this is pretty cool.

cant be from Japan (Score: 1)

by on 2014-09-29 03:35 (#2T07)

where's the robotic tentacle to go with the cheerleaders? disappointed.