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Japan Robotics Hardware

New HRP-4 Humanoid Robots From Japan To Go On Sale 157

An anonymous reader writes "Kawada Industries and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have unveiled their new humanoid robot, HRP-4. The new humanoid stands 151cm tall and is much thinner than its predecessors. For Japan, HRP-4 is another step forward in creating useful mechanical workers to deal with a forthcoming shortage in the labor force and care for an aging population. HRP-4's creators expect to start selling the robot to universities and other research institutions as early as January 2011 for a price tag of $300,000, which is not that bad for a humanoid." The HRP-4s are a whole $100,000 cheaper than Willow Garage's PR2 (non-humanoid) robots, which became available earlier this month. The difference really adds up when building your robot army. Ron Moore could not be reached for comment.
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New HRP-4 Humanoid Robots From Japan To Go On Sale

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  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Friday September 17, 2010 @02:33PM (#33613584)

    On the whole, I think I'd rather hire an au pair girl.

    • On the whole, I think I'd rather hire an au pair girl.

      If the Robot does the dishes and the floors and etc., then neither you nor your lady have to do it, and thusly, get to spend more time exploring the various corners of your sexual identities.

      This does, of course, require a ladyfriend, and this is, of course, slashdot, so perhaps I'm being overly optimistic.

    • On the whole, I think I'd rather hire an au pair girl.

      if you're going to be slipping it to her, I rather agree. Otherwise I'd rather the robot. I don't have kids so all the chores that need doing are theoretically doable by robot, and it won't talk back.

  • by 0racle ( 667029 )
  • That would make a lousy sexbot. Come on, Japan, we expected much better than that of you! On the plus side, can it scrub toilets?
  • If these robots are going to be caring for old people, what will prevent them from stealing old people's medicine? [hulu.com]

  • Combine the HRP-4 and a real doll and you could make billions!

  • by InsaneProcessor ( 869563 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @02:41PM (#33613692)
    This would be real impressive if the video showed the robot actually doing real work.
    • by rotide ( 1015173 )

      I was going to post something very similar.

      It's an interesting robot. It seems to have great balance and great range of motion, when it's just there by itself. What happens when it picks up something heavy? What happens when weight it is carrying shifts? Can it delicately handle easily damaged/broken items? Is it simply programmed, step by step for simple processes much like a line assembly stationary robot, or is it capable of recognizing and manipulating objects in three dimensions?

      • This isn't a shrinkwrapped product to do your dishes. The OEM should focus on physical specs like range of motion, torque, and number/type of sensors integrated. Then let researchers go from there.
    • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @04:17PM (#33614682) Homepage Journal
      Actually, if you are a little familiar with Japanese culture you'd notice that the robot does some moves that would be recognizable to Japanese as moves and stances from Noh, Kabuki, Kendo, and probably a few other cultural things, which are rather precise. I'm sure the robot was programmed step by step, but never the less, the moves were rather smooth & precise.
      • Sure, but that doesn't answer the original question: how well can it handle the unexpected? I also have to wonder why there are such long pauses between the moves. I suspect it is to do motion planning, but in any case these pauses are not there because the programmers wanted to have them. At least not for this long.

        Nevertheless, this is just demo software on an experimental platform, and this looks like a very impressive one. This robot is no longer laughably clumsy; it's just clumsy, and in the next on

  • I heard its software is field upgradable without user intervention and works with other USR units to accomplish really big tasks.

    For some reason the brochure doesn't say what that really big task is...

  • Can it dance? Is there a reward offered for the first team that successfully programs it to do "The Robot"? Will FOX be putting out a new reality show titled "So You Think Your Robot Can Dance"? Inquiring minds want to know!
  • Adding Afghanistan troops could cost $500000 per person - CNN.com http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/10/30/afghanistan.costs/index.html [cnn.com] a few bullets, use your targets as food, (sorry 'fuel') and bob is your warlord. And people worry about the singularity... @ 300,000.00 it'll be just a factory away from running your own country. Imagine using a stream of these as a Denial Of Service attack on, ok nevermind, the future as the curse says, will be interesting, but not pleasant.
    • I always thought the primary purpose of war was to kill as many of the other blokes as possible. That way, once you won, there was less of the buggers left to get annoyed at all the raping and pillaging you were doing.

  • Somebody has a manufacturing cost problem.

    This cost problem stalled robotics for years. Only in the last decade have research platform prices come down to even vaguely sane levels. Now, most universities with robotics programs have reasonable numbers of standard platforms running around, instead of just one or two hand-made units.

    This thing needs to come down to $50K or so. The Aldebaran Nao, which is a decent research humanoid robot, tops out at EUR 12,000. The best Japanese hobbyist machines are

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 17, 2010 @02:55PM (#33613836)

    Hmmm,... I guess Japan could try to invent intelligent robots to help their decrepit population, OR they could relax their racist immigration policies and allow immigrants in from Asia...
    I wonder which method has the best chance of working (actually I don't, it's fucking obvious to any non idiot)

    • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )
      So... you also feel robots are the way to go?
    • Or they could start having children...

    • and allow immigrants in from Asia

      Where, exactly, do you think Japan IS ?

      Anyway, the increasing trend these days is for said "immigrants" to pay as little as possible into the tax and pension scheme, rather send as much money as they can home to their own country (thus draining funds from the local economy), so they can build a house and live like a king once they retire.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      Hmmm,... I guess Japan could try to invent intelligent robots to help their decrepit population, OR they could relax their racist immigration policies and allow immigrants in from Asia...

      My take is that it's an interesting experiment. If it doesn't work, then there's another arrow in the quiver for the multiculturalists. If it does work, then we have a better understanding of relatively extreme human societies than we did before.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wrook ( 134116 )

      As an immigrant working in Japan I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one. The immigration policies are not racist in-so-far as they don't discriminate against any particular group of people. Instead immigration is discouraged, period. You may believe this is because Japanese people are racist in general, but my opinion is that you are wrong. I have experienced considerably less racism here than I have seen in my home country of Canada.

      IMHO, the immigration policy here is sensible. Why on ear

    • Hmmm,... I guess Japan could try to invent intelligent robots to help their decrepit population, OR they could relax their racist immigration policies and allow immigrants in from Asia... I wonder which method has the best chance of working (actually I don't, it's fucking obvious to any non idiot)

      Well, I don't think our immigration policies are particularly racist. We generally don't want immigrants regardless of their race or country of origin, period. Our strict immigration policies are necessary, IMO, to maintain our cultural identity and unique cultural values, and most of us like it that way.

      If your country accepts immigrants from all over the world and take unfair advantage of their cheap labor under the hypocritical names of justice and freedom while they suffer tremendously from racism, t

    • Hmmm,... I guess Japan could try to invent intelligent robots to help their decrepit population, OR they could relax their racist immigration policies and allow immigrants in from Asia...
      I wonder which method has the best chance of working (actually I don't, it's fucking obvious to any non idiot)

      You're right, any asshole with two neurons to rub together should understand that Japan is full. Japan has conditions that make the Japanese leave! There's huge enclaves of Japanese in other nations, because there's not enough room for everyone on their island and anyone who wasn't winning was voted off already. Immigration is NOT the answer; Japan is well over its carrying capacity already. Every nation which cannot feed its people with its own food production should be trying to REDUCE population, not inc

  • by Mayhem178 ( 920970 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @02:58PM (#33613864)
    but when I do, I DRP-4.
  • What if it walks on a surface that is moving chaotically? What if something or someone collides with it or pushes it? Can it react instantly to such enexpected situations to keep its balance as well as a human can?
  • Great we finally have robot soldiers ready to export and the strongest Yen to Dollar exchange rate in 15 years...

    Just 2 years ago you'd have had nearly 50% more buying power.

  • While certainly not cheap, why is the Japanese robot so much cheaper than what the American company is offering, especially when it seems to be more sophisticated?

    I'd like to know what Japanese companies have figured out that Americans are incapable of. Whenever a Japanese company begins selling some fairly high technology to the public it ends up being substantially cheaper than what an American counterpart would have asked. Is it that much more expensive to run a business and manufacture something in the

    • by Zerth ( 26112 )

      The lack of land in Japan leads to minimizing inventory/work-in-progress and efficiency of machinery. This sometimes leads to lower cost of goods as a side effect.

  • An excellent robot platform would be upgradeable to better parts over time, so new arms/hands/legs/motion controls/battery units/cameras and other sensors could be installed and so more 'brains' could connect to it via a wireless network, then it would be up to the programs to provide this machine with more and more capabilities. Sure, it doesn't know your apartment and can't wash dishes right now, but give it a server with a good map of your place and add more software to 'teach' it to wash dishes, and th

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cCHICAGOom minus city> on Friday September 17, 2010 @03:22PM (#33614112) Journal
    I think that using robots instead of human beings to fight our wars just sets us up for a situation where 100% of the casualties of war will be civilians.
    • Well, maybe that will give civilian populations less incentive to fight stupid and pointless wars. If they know the only lives at risk are their own, then they don't have the convenience of armed and trained soldiers to hide behind.
      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Except that in practice, the average civilian rarely has any real say in whether or not a war should be fought.
  • Robot Armies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dvinn ( 927610 )

    These already look about as capable as the droids in the Star Wars movie universe. Now they just need to be programmed to say 'roger roger.'

  • I for one noticed in the demo video that there was another robot with a female head in the background on the right.
    While industrial uses are probably limited, I wonder how many would pay out the $200,000 price tag for that one.

    To the future of the Japanese sex industry

  • I'm gonna hold out until they release its canine robotic companion, the DRP-4.
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @03:58PM (#33614512)

    I've been thinking robots would be a real problem starting in about 2020 based on current vision and manual dexterity systems progress.
    Discussing this elsewhere (and told I was too pessimistic), I came across the following information.

    http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2010/tc2010061_798891.htm [businessweek.com]
    Soon, That Nearby Worker Might Be a Robot

    Online retailer Diapers.com employs more than 350 of the robots in three warehouses, and is adding "hundreds per month," says Executive Vice-President Scott Hilton. Retailer Crate & Barrel has purchased Kiva robots to be installed in its Tracy (Calif.) distribution center in July. One reason Crate & Barrel and Diapers.com decided to use Kiva robots is that the robots can work in the dark, reducing carbon emissions and saving money on air-conditioning and lighting. ...

    at El Camino Hospital in Silicon Valley, 19 robots fulfill a range of tasks, from delivering medication and food to taking out trash. ...

    Hiring as many humans ... would have cost the hospital more than $1 million a year, says Ken King, vice-pr.... Leasing the robots from Aethon costs $350,000 a year, which helps the hospital contain costs and offer patients affordable health care, he says.

    The Tug robots pull their weight, say hospital officials. Tugette, for example, rolls through El Camino Hospital's corridors making deliveries around the clock, opening doors, summoning elevators, and speaking politely with workers and patients.


    So let's see.

            * Two THIRDs cheaper than humans
            * Works 24 hours a day
            * Works in the dark
            * Doesn't require air conditioning
            * Some companies are employing "hundreds of them" with more on the way.
            * Replaces humans who go into the warehouse and get things and who stock shelves.
            * If you have any kind of SLA, it also basically never gets sick.

    And that's NOW. Right now. Already happening- not 10 years from now.

    It's going to be very difficult to adjust to this change in less than a generation- if it is even possible to adjust to it at all.

    • "I call her 'Tugette,' " says Muniz, who works in hospital admissions. The voice is about the only feminine part of this robot, which was developed by Aethon as part of a product line called Tug, which automatically transports food, medicine, and lab samples around hospitals.

      I should point out a previous slashdot story on pneumatic tubes and one of their uses in hospitals.

      Using the Anybots device known as QB, for example, it's possible for a remote operator to roll up to a colleague and ask an impromptu question, replicating in some measure the unplanned conversations that occur in offices.

      Ummm, about those TPC reports.

      The lights in the tunnel. [thelightsinthetunnel.com]

    • It's going to be very difficult to adjust to this change in less than a generation- if it is even possible to adjust to it at all.

      It'll be pretty easy if we have a mass dieoff. If I were one of the evil bastards who's been running this planet since time was time, I'd be thinking about ways to kill off the excess population before it took to rioting.

  • Japanese culture will go down in the history books as one of the most interesting and self-destructive cultures of all time. They're essentially destroying themselves (both literally with suicide and figuratively by not breeding enough to replace their population numbers) and seem to be in some kind of race to replace themselves with robots rather than suffer the indignity of opening their culture to outsiders. My wish is that the burakumin take to the streets and impose a cultural uprising that will set

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      unhh...Japan is severely overpopulated. This is ONE of the reasons their immigration policies are so restrictive. (Admittedly not the only one.)

      It's true that the population is aging, but you don't solve a population problem by increasing the size of the base of the pyramid. Robots MAY be an answer. (Even if they aren't good enough to care for elders, they can do other jobs, which free those people to take other jobs, freeing some people to assist elders. Whether this will work depends on how easily pe

    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      What is better about having your genetic code bred out of existence, and your culture completely replaced by immigrants over having your genetic code lost through lack of breeding and your culture lost due to nobody from your culture being left? They have both happened to many cultures over the centuries, and they are both likely to continue to happen.
      • OK, I mean on a cultural level. On a personal level, I would be much happier if huge numbers of women from different cultures tried to wipe out my genetic code by having lots of sex with me.
  • The important lesson being if you are going to place a Slashvertisement, make sure your server has the bandwidth to handle all the traffic.

    I guess once they've sold one of those $300,000 dollar babies, they'll be able to upgrade their hosting plan.

  • I don't need a humanoid robot. I've already got the humanoid that needs augmentation: myself. If I need another humanoid, I've got a wife. I need nonhumanoids for all the things my wife won't/can't do. What I really need is a robot chair that carries me around Jazzfest, defaulting to my preferred scheduled stages and food booths, then bars around New Orleans, while arranging the best meeting places with my friends. I need a chair that will take me up and down stairs, carrying groceries and stuff. Something

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow ( 566160 )

      Some of those tasks might best be done by a humanoid, since humans have done them adequately for so long. Really they mostly need hands and arms, but maybe not, and feet, but only because we've got steps, and probably something more like tank tracks which can deform on the roller axles to "walk" or something like it.

      Having any or all of those tasks built into a single humanoid, or a team, is creepy. It's more a latent desire to enslave other humans than a desire to offload tasks to whatever just gets them done. Making them humanoid seems like a lot of extra work for just a fetish. So there's probably a market for AI "Real Doll" robots, but the stuff I don't want any part of doing should probably be a lot more abstract in form factor.

      So you want to expensive restructure your house to accommodate a tracked robot just because you don't want to seem to have a humanoid fetish? My take is that a human home is designed around a humanoid form. Hence, it doesn't take a fetish to desire a humanoid robot that can operate in your home without requiring substantial changes to the home.

      • No, I don't want a track. I want a robot that can follow me around anywhere. And one that's built into, or sits on, my washing machine, my dishwasher, my closet. Getting things between stationary robots that enhance features of stationary furniture can be other, mobile robots, that serve multiple functions each requiring transport or mobility.

        My home already accommodates many things not at all humanoid, indeed often better than it accommodates my own body (I bump things that have necessary shapes for functi

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      While you present an interesting perspective, it could be argued that by utilizing a human shape for a robot, the robot is simply more readily adaptable to many different tasks. Using special purpose devices may well be more efficient in the sense of getting any one particular job done, but the increased versatility that comes from using a single form that can adapt to a variety of different tasks could also easily be worth the tradeoff in many cases. Plus, of course, you don't have to have some 3 or 4 do
      • Well, that perspective might already have been true of all our appliances. Why don't we have one single appliance that does it all? Indeed, why do we have separate space heaters, water heaters, and cookers? Why do we have shop vacs and carpet vacs? Landline handsets and mobile handsets (indeed that one shows the problems of "one size fits all" that we're trying, badly, and mainly only because it's enforced by carriers).

        The Unix perspective that's informed so much in technology since the 1970s is the value o

        • by mark-t ( 151149 )
          I think that ultimately the primary idea behind a human shaped robot is not to do work that can't be done by people, but to *DO* work that can be performed by people so that other people don't HAVE to do that job. Robots may not require the "limitation" of being shaped like people, but we can't deny the adaptability that several hundred million years of evolution has given this form, and we would be nothing less than arrogant to think we might be able to design something even more versatile without at lea
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )

            I think the arrogance lies in thinking we'll start out replacing human tasks with a robot that is as versatile as a human. I just ran down all the automation we've already got, none of which is human in form, but all of which is the point from which incremental automation is on the verge of being robotic. The tasks I'm talking about doing with robots haven't been done for the several hundred million years of human evolution, and indeed mostly haven't been done, certainly not well, since humans stopped evolv

            • by mark-t ( 151149 )

              I think it's less of an issue thinking that we'll start out there and more along the idea that we hope to eventually attain that goal. Personally, I think we're getting close, and we could see it happening probably in our lifetime. Ultimately, we may even surpass our own adaptability with some design for robots we have not yet imagined that is *MORE* versatile than our own form.

              Anyways... so you could have a robot with many arms to fold your clothes as they finish drying. How's it going to put them a

              • As I said, there's no real point to having a single machine do all these tasks. The arms should be part of the washing machine, though they probably won't be like human arms but rather the arms of a "mangle" (commercial clothes folding machine). Then a separate robot that moves things around the house should move the clothes to the closet. That mobile robot sould probably have tank tracks with articulations that can climb stairs, or a conveyor track on the stairs to a separate robot per storey, or a snake s

                • by mark-t ( 151149 )
                  The point is practicality. A single machine will generally be less expensive than many other machines, will take up less space, and is much less likely to clash with any existing interior design than having numerous machines all over the place without having to re-engineer the home from scratch to accomodate such automation, as some of the things you've mentioned would require, unless you like living in a place that looks like a factory (most do not). It's not at all impractical to want to exploit an exi
                  • Nothing you said is actually true of any of the other machines we make. I have cited many examples. Having a central heater, a separate fireplace, a toaster, an oven and a stove and a hair dryer don't make the home look like a factory. I have also said multiple times that the mobile robots can use either an articulated track, snake or other locomotion that doesn't require any new infrastructure, but work better than legs, and perhaps a simple track on the side of stairs that many homes already have in great

                    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

                      Installing a track into a home involves installing a structure that can easily be seen as an eyesore by people who do not require such a device to navigate the stairs themselves. Heck, it might be seen as ugly even BY people who require it. Ultimately, it is not something most people would want to do if they had a choice. If the human inhabitants of a home do not require the track to get around, why should it be required for a robot? Particularly since bipedal locomotion for robots is not the science

  • I'll hold out for a cyborg babe.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.