March 24, 2008

Robots Attack and Bring Home the Bacon

It's not everyday that you can see a karate-bot fight a chicken, even in Japan, which is home to 40 percent of the world's robots. But every year, a stadium in Tokyo fills with applause for these bipedal humanoids.

Robo-One is a robot competition which has been held since 2002. The robots are controlled by participants and are generally built using sheet metal or aluminum and have RC Servos as actuators. The robots generally have some type of micro controller to which the participant uses to control its movements.

These robots come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This year they ranged from chicken-like bots to medieval princes to plain old cubes. During Robo-One 13 held this past weekend in the Korakuen stadium hall in Tokyo, 112 robots, all physically different, competed against one another. By day two of the competition, less than half remained to battle it out until the end.

Robo-One committee chairman Terukazu Nishimura explains that the competition is about making dreams come true. "Japanese children have all been brought up watching animation and there is a lot of interest in robot battles, so this Robo-One competition is all about making this a reality." Not only is this competition fantasy-meets-reality, but it is also a way to see intelligence on display. A Korean engineer named Jeon Yung Sun says that the competition provides an excellent chance to view Japan's advanced technology in the field of robotics.

Yung Sun and his robot, Teakwon-V, took home a prize of 1 million yen, or $10,000.

The engineer said of his victory, "Some people say that South Korea's technology is unsatisfactory, but I would like to show ... that South Korea's robot technology is doing really well by continuing to participate in robot competitions and walking shoulder to shoulder with Japan's teams until we develop our technology and do even better."

The Robo-One competition takes place bi-annually. Once a year, the competition takes place in Tokyo during odd numbered competitions. The second time the event is held, it is staged in a more remote location in order to encourage participation and increase visibility and awareness. Similar competitions are held in Korea, yet they are not as well-known.

This competition provides a niche for amateur programmers who often develop their products faster than those in the corporate world. Several larger electronics companies, such as Sony, have recently called for a halt in production of their cutting-edge robots, due to development costs.

The winner of the heavyweight division, Naoki Maru, believes that corporate reluctance allows amateurs to gain an advantage over the large corporations. "You see a lot of technological breakthroughs in these kind of fighting robots. This competition, for example, happens twice a year, but every time we gather you witness here some incredible technological revolution in robotics," he said.


Photo Caption: Taken at ROBO-ONE competition in Japan. Lem Fugitt / Robots Dreams


On the Net:

Robo-One (Wikipedia)


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