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[Digg] I, for one, welcome our smoothly striding samurai robot overlords. - Adventures in Engineering — LiveJournal
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-06-11 22:05
  Subject:   [Digg] I, for one, welcome our smoothly striding samurai robot overlords.
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  Mood:der uber-nerd
  Music:Kraftwerk - The Robots


http://kiyomori.jp/main.html

Kiyomori, made by the always amusingly named TMSuk Corp, is a 37 DOF robot clad in traditional samurai armor, as his namesake the Heian-era warlord Taira no Kiyomori often was.



http://www.robots-dreams.com/2005/12/the_robot_wow_f.html

They're making a lot of noise about how "Kiyomori's knees are flexible". I think this is either marketing misunderstanding, or else he uses some form of compliant/series elastic actuators on the knees. I'm always in favor of using series elastic actuators in robots - it simply mimics the human muscle/tendon combo much better. But I don't think that feature is the breakthrough here.


The bigger thing I think is that he has more than one degree of freedom at the hips. A long-strided walk around the room will probably convince you fairly quickly that your hips need to allow your legs to both swing (thigh moves forward-back) and also pivot (toe points left-right) in order to walk smoothly. In addition, I also believe that your tailbone needs to allow your pelvis to rotate relative to your torso. And if you want to get really anal about the analysis, your ankle probably needs to allow your shin to lean inwards and outwards slightly as well. Most robot designs allowed the leg to swing, but that's pretty much it. Hence, very stiff walking.



http://www.takanishi.mech.waseda.ac.jp/research/wabian/index.htm

It looks as if TMSuk called in the expertise of Waseda U's WABIAN-2 group to help them out with this project. WABIAN-2 is a bipedal humanoid robot that Kiyomori seems to be derived from, and has a surprisingly competent waist/hip design that allows him to walk and move much more like a person. A characteristic evident even in still photographs:





Here's a video of WABIAN-2 in action.




It's interesting to note that structurally speaking, WABIAN-2's leg "bones" are basically two long plates. This is a pretty good mechanical design in a lot of ways. It's light, has good rigidity, allows plenty of internal space to mount actuators, and makes joint design dead simple. From a hobbiest perspective, it is also extremely easy to manufacture. Anyone who can download the CAD software from EMachineShop can have aluminium plates of just about any dimensions made to spec. A more conventional "dog bone" mechanical design is a lot harder to make (large bones milled down from even larger blocks of metal = $$$$), weighs a lot more, has no internal space, and the joint design is almost always harder. Better robot designs have used the parallel plate model with excellent success. It falls down when you need to have more than one degree of freedom at a joint, but otherwise it's an excellent way to do things.
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McKavian
  User: mckavian
  Date: 2006-06-11 23:15 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
I watched the one where it was in fully samurai getup.

I am sure there will be plenty of flat earthers out there who object to human-centric forms of the robots. They watched I, Robot and The Day The Earth Stood Still, et al. too many times and refuse to trust anything looking 'human' that isn't. Rather xenophobic if you ask me (though you didn't).

Personally. I think it's a grand thing.
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-06-11 23:33 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
The amusing twist on I, Robot of course being that it's actually a super-computer that's the real villian. And in the end it's a renegade Nestor-5 model robot who pulls the main characters' bacon out of the fire and gives them the tools they need to save the day.

Further amusing is that this same robot, unlike his fellow bots, is specially modified to have freedom of moral choice, and thus is free from the super-computer's evil mind control that allows the super-computer to use the other robots as tools to supress humanity.

I, Robot was a little weak in the first half, and as a result I think a lot of people missed the really interesting stuff later on. You can fault the film-makers for getting too slow a start on things, but I think some of the blame must also fall on lazy audiences who turned their brains off after twenty minutes without anyone getting shot. I actually consider I, Robot one of the more under-rated good sci-fi movies of the last 5 years.


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McKavian
  User: mckavian
  Date: 2006-06-12 01:40 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Overall I liked the movie. The plot was good. The lines were adequate. The robots were great. The characters were OK. They paid homage to the writer (Arthur C. Clark, if I remember)and totally messed it up.

I could not see it being a Will Smith movie. That is just the wrong tone. I saw this as more of a Blade Runner - darker, grittier.

That was just my interpretation of it.
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-06-12 06:23 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
(Arthur C. Clark, if I remember)

Asimov.
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  User: (Anonymous)
  Date: 2006-06-12 00:04 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Trivia: I'm actually named after the warlord. No one in Japan, my parents nor my sister refers to me by my first name.

-J
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-06-12 00:21 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
So is this "Morikiyo -> Kiyomori" another example of differently-read kanji?
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  User: (Anonymous)
  Date: 2006-06-12 13:03 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
The two characters 'kiyo' and 'mori' are just reversed.

-J
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  User: jigenm4c
  Date: 2006-06-12 16:50 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Wouldn't it make more sense to use Bungee cords or similar types of material instead of elastics (read "rubber bands") because they can wear out more quickly? Or am I just thinking of the crappy rubber bands that people usually get to hold things in bundles? I always associated rubber bands with total crap because they deteriorate or snap easily, whereas bungee cords can be used over and over again, and support ungodly amounts of weight?
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-06-12 23:01 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
No, actually, it would make more sense to build them out of something considerably tougher - like steel coil springs.

http://yobotics.com/actuators/technical_papers/electric_SEA.pdf
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