To be honest, I'm torn when asked to comment on robots. On the one hand, people cheer for the advance in technology and the fact that robots facilitate our lives in so many ways. On the other hand, we show concern for the possibility that they might eventually rule the world, including us. In this post, I'm not taking sides. What I will focus on is the joy that has been brought by all these wonderful inventions. Let's not judge if they are dangerous or not. Robots, first and foremost, are companions/friends for human beings. If you are still wondering about how robots can make a positive difference in our lives, the following stories about ten interesting bots will give you an answer.



#1. HRP-4C (aka Miim)

A robot that will make you drop the mic.

Watch out, Asian boy bands. The competition is on. While having an engineer-y name, the HRP-4C in reality is a robot that excels in the realm of art. Its human-looking face and body is no stranger to us, yet it is among the best dancers in the robot world. HRP-4C, a star of the entertainment industry, is known for its singing and dancing capabilities. The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology created its look and figure to be exactly like the average young female in Japan. On top of that, they equipped the lady-like Miim (nickname for HRP-4C) with walking control technology and speech recognition. Put Miim in a J-pop band and she would have no problem leading the performance.



#2. Kuratas

Ready to pilot a fighting robot? Bring it on!

Kuratas Robot

What is the most dreamed about occupation among guys? There could be a thousand of answers for a thousand people, and robot pilot will definitely be among them. The creators of Kuratas must have heard the calling so many times before they finally built and launched the world's first giant boarding-robot a couple of years ago. Kuratas is about 4 meters tall and is designed by Japanese electronics company, Suidobashi Heavy Industry. Our dream of piloting a robot has become reality. This vehicle rolls like a tank and is equipped with full-flung firearms, including a lohas launcher, an iron crow, a carbon shield, a KH gun and a pilebunker. The pilot inside controls the robot's movement with kinect. Since its birth, Kuratas has made its name. It has grown so famous that an American team has started a similar project - the Megabot challenge - to battle Kuratas out. The combat between the two giant robots is scheduled to kick off sometime this year. Challenge accepted!



#3. Pepper

Looking for a true friend? This caring robot knows all your emotions.

Humanoid Robot - Pepper

With Pepper, your office life would be peppered with so much laughter and joy. A collaboration between French robotics company Aldebaran and Japanese giant SoftBank, this companion robot recognizes and responds to human dialogue and emotions. It can move around by itself in a familiar environment and chat with you like a real friend. What I love about Pepper is that it does not give you a computer cliche when you talk to him. When you ask him about the weather, he'll say: "It's sunny and it's 70 degrees - would you like to study, take a walk or have tea?" If you try asking Pepper if he is going to do his homework, he'll remain silent but start shaking his head like a 6-year-old who is unwilling to finish his school assignment. How cute! How about having Pepper in every office and store to keep people company. Absolutely a social king!



#4. Ingestible Origami Robot

Small steps, big changes.

Can you imagine what robot would be developed by a group of super intelligent minds at one of the leading technological institutions? A lot of intricate wires? Tons of programming? The creators behind the Origami Robot at MIT decided to come up with a robot that requires nothing but a magnet, some pieces of PVC and polystyrene. What's even more amazing is the fact that it can independently fold up, move around, perform tasks and eventually deconstruct in liquid. As it moves along a designated trajectory, it is able to clear obstacles and swim in water when needed. At present, this may sound like something small, yet this tiny gadget could some day be of great value to doctors and patients. Built at lower cost and with the capability to self-dissolve, origami robots would be perfect for carrying medicine in the human body or becoming a surgical tool.




It's not Neil Armstrong. It's the world's most advanced humanoid robot.

Asimo - humanoid robot by Honda

Next, we move on to introducing the smartest robot worldwide. Again a Japanese invention, ASIMO is the robot that once played soccer with President Obama. By its name, ASIMO stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. It took Honda researchers over 20 years to development ASIMO, but it's worth the wait. This advanced robot is the first humanoid robot that can walk independently and climb stairs, or so says ASIMO's creator. It is also able to perform a number of real-life tasks using its arms and hands, such as turning off lights, opening doors and carrying objects. The creators of ASIMO, however, have a much more ambitious goal. They want to make ASIMO a true helper for people - someone who can assist the elderly or those whose lives are constrained to a wheelchair or bed. Making the world a better living place!



#6. RoBoHon - Humanoid Smartphone

You've never thought about moving to Japan..til you meet RoBoHon.

Japanese engineer, Tomotaka Takahashi, has always dreamed about turning robots into some sort of consumer electronic. Then, he made it happen with RoboHon (sounds similar to Robot-Phone), a humanoid smartphone that debuted earlier this year. The gadget is a collaboration between Takahashi's team and Japanese electronics giant Sharp. When resting in the front pocket of your shirt, it is a cute, modern-looking robot with round eyes and Lego-style hands. But it is truly a sweet personal assistant at heart. Here are some examples of RoboHon's daily routine: morning greetings, message alerts, phone calls, photo shooting and being a portable projector...the list goes on. Too bad its service is currently only available to residents in Japan!



#7. Neil and Iona

"If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love." — Maya Angelou

Neil and Iona robots

Coming up, the artsy bots. By age, Neil and Iona are quite old among robots. They were designed by creative technologist, Jason Van Anden, back in 1996 and were born art pieces. Today, they are an integral part of the San Jose Museum of Art collection, greeting tourists and visitors with their smiles everyday. When someone smiles or talks close to Neil and Iona, they respond with a unique smiling mouth and body language. Each smiling expression was hand drawn by a designer where they were created to give an inviting, intimate feeling. If you are lucky, you also get to hear the strange yet captivating sound made by these robots when interacting with humans. Here is a mini documentary about the duo, check it out!



#8. Roombots

Be a real owner of your home. Start by sketching your dream desk.

Have you ever heard about robots that make furniture? Here is one! Roombots are the Lego of the furniture world. Technically speaking, they are a bunch of robotic building blocks that can gather and organize among themselves. In real life, this means they can change shape and functionality according to your need. If you want there to be a bench, these little robotic cubicles connect and create a bench. If you change your mind three days later and want a dining table instead, they'll morph into a table. They can also move around freely to meet up at a designated spot. Let there be a stool? It's your call.



#9. Superflex Biofidelic Actuated Exosuit

Revealing the biggest secret of all supermen.

Superflex Biofidelic Actuated Exosuit

If you have a friend who dreamed of being a superman, having Superflex is as close as they can get. Superflex is what we'd call a "soft" robot, which means the faux flex could become a part of the human body. In fact, such faux muscles are said to weather 250 lbs of force by giving its wearer a huge boost in power. It differentiates itself from all other protective suits in that it has a brain: the sensors built within the suit can monitor your movement and kick start the power just when you need it the most. With its capability to offer support, the suit would also be a great helper to those who are physically challenged.



#10. Rubot 2

This robot has no brain, but it says the Rubik's cube is no brainer.

Rubot II is nicknamed "the Cubinator" because it only does one thing – but does it so well. Its daily routine: solving the Rubik's cube - demonstrates robotic intelligence to a degree that many Youtube viewers left comments concerning how robots might outwit human some day and combat us all. The creator/designer, Pete Redmond, used a neural network with a color recognition system and then advanced it with physical capability. Today, the Cubinator holds the Guinness world record for being the fastest machine in solving the Rubik's cube. The average time needed is 35 seconds. Yes, it is as fast as the top speedcubers, but I'd say it's still incredible given that it's only got four mechanical fingers!



Today, the discussion about robots has gone beyond their looks. We have high hopes for them. Some are meant to replace human workers for dangerous jobs. They will offer all kinds of help and support where it's most needed. What I'm optimistic about is their capability in keeping humans company. I look forward to a future full of my robotic companions. What type of personality would you want to assign to your robots if you could DIY them?


Cipher Zhu
Tagged: Lists