Robots, eh? They can do the vacuuming, make a cup of tea, play football, and of course they’ve been making cars for years. Luckily for us, however, there’s little chance of a Terminator-style apocalypse if they aren’t able to master something that comes as naturally to human beings as riding a bike. Sorry, what’s that? Oh dear. Better track down John Connor and keep him safe.
News reaches us from Japan of the latest version of the bicycling robot Murata Boy, originally developed in 2005, unveiled at the recent CREATEC Japan 2010 show.
Intended primarily to showcase the Murata Manufacturing Company’s skills in fields such as movement sensors, communications and energy saving, the robot is also used to help engage schoolchildren in science, and there is an awful lot of technology in there, as this leaflet makes clear. Murata Boy has a sister, too, the unicycling Murata Girl. We’re not sure whether she’s also able to juggle and use a diabolo, but you never know.
While neither is about to break any speed records, and without wishing to take anything away from Murata's achievement to date, watching the robots go through their paces does make you realise just what a perfect marriage the human body is with a machine as essentially simple as a bicycle. You can spend millions trying to replicate that electronically, but right now, you're not going to come close to imitating it.
One advantage of robots, of course, is that their behaviour – in this pre-Judgment Day world at least – is entirely predictable and their performance precisely measurable. With the latest iteration of Murata Boy now able to go uphill, if they can just get the speed sorted out, we reckon we’ll see one in Team Sky colours before the decade’s over.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.