Technology has become a significant part of our daily lives and no other country in the world has this been embraced more than in Japan. Today’s global trends in artificial intelligence and robotics have not only been adopted many years earlier in Japan but it has already become part of everyday life. Here are a few technology trends in robotics that have caught our attention.
Bee populations worldwide have been on the decline and this may have a devastating impact on plants that need bees for pollination. Japanese researchers have developed a tiny drone that can mimic the activity of a bee by picking up pollen using animal hair attached on its back and a special gel that can hold the pollen and then release them. Right now these drones are still early in their development and still requires human assistance in remotely controlling the drones. It is hoped that someday it will have autonomous capability by using AI and GPS with very little human interaction, if at all.
SUMO WRESTLING ROBOTS
Sumo wrestling is a distinctly Japanese sport and in a country that is obsessed with robots it was just a matter of time until these two things come together. Unlike regular sumo wrestling that pit power and strength, engineers designed these robots to be competitive by having quick data processing capabilities and lighting-fast movements.
The robots are pre-programmed with behaviors on how to react to the opponent so no human intervention is involved. There are only a few rules, mostly regarding the size and weight restrictions but other than that, the robots can do whatever is needed to defeat the opponent.
The Henn-na Hotel, which means “strange hotel” based in Nagasaki that will be run mostly by robots. The 72-room hotel will have 10 robots who will interact with guests. These so called “actroids” have human-like features and bear the mannerisms of young Japanese women. These bots are able to speak in many languages from the standard Japanese to Chinese, Korean, and English. Other robots will be seen carrying your luggage while others will be making coffee or cleaning and delivering laundry.
The hotel is part of a theme park in Nagasaki called Huis Ten Bosch which is modelled after a 17th century Dutch town. Although initially staffed by humans it is hoped that 90% of the services will be run by robots in the near future.
JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have created a camera that is capable of real time imaging of the space station from flight controllers and researchers from the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center back on Earth. The internal ball or Int-Ball has a weight of 1 kg, has a diameter of 15 cm, and uses 12 propellers for propulsion and orientation. It was created using 3D printing and existing drone technologies and orients itself in space using pink colored square markers attached to the ends of the room. It can move anywhere within that room through autonomous flight and record images from any angle. It is being used to monitor equipment in the ISS remotely.
The Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) is a robotic suit developed by Tsukuba University and Cyberdyne. It is designed to help the disabled and the elderly in their daily activities. The exoskeleton is able to read the wearer’s nerve signals sent from the brain to muscles to enhance his or her physical capabilities.
The original Kirobo was co-developed by Toyota in 2013 and sent to the International Space Station along with Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese astronaut to command the ISS. The Kirobo Mini is a smaller version of that robot that acts like an everyday companion. At just 10 centimeters, the Kirobo Mini is small enough to fit in a cup holder (preferably in a Toyota) and will cost around 39,800 yen or $400. It will require a smartphone connection to operate as well as a subscription of 300 yen ($3) a month to keep using it. It is capable of face tracking and can converse to a limited degree.
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