Super-domestique? Robots evolve from vacuuming the floor to cycling uphill (+video)

Japan's Murata siblings continue to develop their cycling skills

by Simon_MacMichael   October 12, 2010  

Murata Boy.jpg

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.
 

10 user comments

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Crikey he cycles uphill faster than me. And probably with less bleeping too (this feels like ****ing Mount Fuji!)

posted by bazzargh [144 posts]
12th October 2010 - 9:11

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I see the little propellor in his chest stopped going round as he hit the middle of the "hill" was that the robot equivalent of going anaerobic I wonder? Thinking

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4142 posts]
12th October 2010 - 9:14

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that unicycling lady robot looks like something out of a modern remake of chorlton and the wheelies

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7379 posts]
12th October 2010 - 9:25

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Simon, here's some entirely predictable robot behaviour...Looks like Asimo's been on the bottle again!

posted by Mark Appleton [554 posts]
12th October 2010 - 9:39

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Come on guys - Robots unicycling and doing a totally, utterly perfect track-stand? If you are not impressed and amazed by that, then you need your heads examining Surprise

posted by don_don [149 posts]
12th October 2010 - 10:08

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I'm impressed don_don and I know Jeff is cos he's seen Asimo in the flesh as it were, I'm just not scared yet… or maybe we're all trying to keep our sprits up.

Was at a talk last year by one of those futurologist chaps big corporations hire to predict technological and societal trends and he reckoned it was going to be a very short time indeed before machine intellect surpassed that of humans - in the future apparently we are all going to be machines or part machine with the internet implanted in our heads being the first step. Nice.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4142 posts]
12th October 2010 - 10:18

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No doubt about it don-don, these machines are undeniably impressive. One thing that stuck with me after I "met" Asimo and interviewed his handler was what he told me about how children interact with the robot. Because Asimo is their size, they really relate to "him" and often start to cry when he leaves. Says something for their eventual potential to interact with people and provide companionship, I think.

posted by Mark Appleton [554 posts]
12th October 2010 - 10:48

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Don't let the jocular tone of the piece fool you, I've nothing but admiration for the people developing these and other robots. But writing it did make me reflect on just how complex and wonderful the human body is.

Having said that, I've probably watched far too many sci-fi movies with a robots-gone-bad plot than is good for me Wink

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8103 posts]
12th October 2010 - 12:24

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oi! stop taking my username in vain!!! I am no robot Wink

posted by Super Domestique [1600 posts]
12th October 2010 - 12:46

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Maybe I mis-read the tone of the article, sorry about that.

I'm not sure about having t'internet implanted in my head, but if I can get re-chipped to track-stand like that, I'm in...

posted by don_don [149 posts]
12th October 2010 - 13:11

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