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Meet Poppy, a more human humanoid robot

PoppyA team of researchers at Inria and ENSTA-Paristech in France has build a new 3D-printed humanoid robot that looks a little different than most robots.  Its morphology closely mimics real human form, and it has some features, like an articulated (and powered) spine, that are quite rare in humanoids this size.

The robot, dubbed “Poppy,” stands 84 cm tall and weighs 3.5 kg.  It’s driven by 25 Robotis Dynamixel actuators, mostly MX-28‘s.  It’s controlled by a Raspberry Pi, and uses a large number of sensors, including force-sensitive resistors, two cameras, and an IMU.

The cost of the open-source robot is about 8000 euros (about US$11,000), most of which is in the servos.  That’s not too bad for a humanoid robot this size, and the team has striven to make it easy to assemble and program, so anyone can catch up and contribute.

While the robot can’t walk on its own yet, with a bit of help balancing it demonstrates a very humanlike gait.  The researchers intend to continue refining and programming the robot with the goal of walking on its own.  Using 3D printed structural components has allowed the team to iterate very quickly, for example, settling on the angled-in upper legs after first trying the more typical straight-leg design.  Check it out in the video below.

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Robo-One 23 Tournament Results

The 23rd Robo-One biped robotics tournament was held in Tokyo earlier this month.  Actually two tournaments in one, the weekend saw the 7th Robo-One Light tournament on Saturday, September 14th, and the main Robo-One (Light Class) tournament on Sunday the 15th.  Yes, the nomenclature is a bit confusing, in English at least.  Robo-One Light is a fairly recent tournament for beginners; only certain approved off-the-shelf robots are allowed to compete.  In the main Robo-One tournament, any robots are allowed, and the vast majority of them are custom builds.  However, because the increasing size (and expense) of the robots was making it harder for most hobbyists to compete, a “light class” was created for custom robots under 3 kg.

Over 100 robots (listed here — the last two numbers in each row are height in cm, and weight in kg) showed up to compete in the main tournament, which had room for only 48.  So to participate in the tournament on Sunday, each bot had to first compete in a qualification event that took place on Saturday (alongside the Robo-One Light tournament).  This qualification event was a 4.5-meter foot race, made even more challenging by the placement of five thin rubber strips on the path, making the terrain slightly uneven.  Many robots were unable to complete the course at all.  The fastest robot this year was Metallic Fighter, by Team Meta, with a time of 11.15 seconds.  (The previous speed champion, Frosty, veered to the left and fell off the track this time around.)

The 48 best robots in the foot race went on to compete on Sunday.  A new rule this time prohibited the side punch which had become such a mainstay of previous Robo-One battles, forcing the builders to come up with creative new moves.  The full results can be found here.  Two of the top three winners were high school teams; in first place was Laio by Kobe Municipal Science and Technology High School, and 3rd place went to Newtrino-Nero by Hida-Kamioka High School.  In between (with 2nd place) was frequent champion Garoo, by Kumama-san.

This video shows the third-place match between Gattender and Newtrino-Nero.

Many more videos from the tournament are available at Biped Robot News Japan, though unfortunately the final match was not captured with very good quality.

About 40 robots participated in the Robo-One Light tournament on Saturday; the winner was “Dragon S.”  I’m still looking for a more detailed list of participants, since it would be very interesting to see how the various commercial robots fared.  Watch for more details as they become available.

The next tournament — Robo-One 24 and Robo-One Light 8 — is scheduled for February 15-16, 2014.

[via Biped Robot News Japan and Robo-One]

Open-Source “21st Century Robot” Announced

Brian David Johnson, a futurist at Intel, has announced an open-source humanoid robot project.  The prototype (currently just a nonfunctional shell) is named “Jimmy,” but Johnson is open-sourcing all design files, and encouraging everyone to customize and tweak their own robot.  The core parts (electronics and servos, we presume) will be available as a kit, with the rest designed for printing on any home 3D printer.  Johnson is striving for a kit cost under $1000, and possibly even under $500.

Instructions for  building the robot, along with inspirational science fiction stories, will be available in a book due out next summer called “21st Century Robot.”  An early edition of this book has already been released this week at the Maker Faire.  The final version of the book, which will include build instructions, is expected out in May 2014.  This will be based on a reference design, currently being worked on by Dave Barrett at Olin College, which is expected to be complete this November. Read more…

240-year-old Programmable Humanoid Robot

Humanoid robotics news has been a little thin lately, so we’re going to reach back for a somewhat older news item… 240 years old, in fact.

This excerpt from the BBC documentary Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams shows The Writer, an 18th-century automaton built by Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz.

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Balance Challenges in Humanoid Robot Competition

At the recent KHR 9th Anniversary KONDO Battle in Tokyo, humanoid robots competed in a Robo-One style tournament.  All the robots involved in this event are sophisticated machines built by dedicated hobbyists.  But as you can see in the video of the final championship bout, even the best of them sometimes have trouble staying on their feet.

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RoboSavvy Humanoid Design Challenge

London hobby robotics company and community leader RoboSavvy, in collaboration with GrabCAD, has launched a Humanoid Design Challenge.

The contest gives you 40 days (and 40 nights) to design a humanoid robot that is both highly functional and looks great, while keeping the cost under $1000.  The winner will receive their custom-built robot plus $800 in cash.  Second and third place winners receive smaller cash prizes.

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BoB the BiPed robot sensation

A low-cost, 3D-printed biped robot design known by BoB is becoming a bit of an internet sensation.  It was posted originally on, and then on, where it’s received almost 30 thousand views and over 250 favorites at the time of this writing.  That’s sure to increase since it recently won first or second place in two different contests (3d Printing and Pocket Sized Electronics). Read more…

Supa Robot Attack

A British producer has launched a new humanoid robot fighting league called Supa Robot Attack.  Though the technology is basically the same as the Robo-One and related contests in Japan, the style is a little more like Dekinnoka, with a decidedly Western spin. Read more…

Heathkit comes back from the dead!

I don’t very often splurge on an exclamation point in an article title.  They seem excessive and overexcited to me.  But this is news that deserves one:

The Heath Company, makers of the great Heathkit® electronic kits that were widely popular in the 1970s, is still around.  They are currently reorganizing, and plan to resume making kits in the near future. Read more…

More robot gymnastic feats

Mad robot builder Hinamitetu has been at it once again.  This week he posted not one, but two new feats of robot gymnastics to his YouTube channel.  First, check out this double front flip from Robot No. 16 — and as we all expect by now, it sticks the landing perfectly:

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