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Robotics Technology

Hitachi Unveils Humanoid Robot 245

HunahpuMonkey writes "BBC reports that Hitachi has unveiled a humanoid robot, named Emiew, to compete with Honda's Asimo and Sony's Qrio robots. The robot has a vocabulary of about 100 words and could be trained for practical office and factory use. In addition, it is the fastest robot to date, moving 3.7 miles per hour on wheel feet which resemble the bottom half of a Segway scooter."
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Hitachi Unveils Humanoid Robot

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  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:30PM (#11959508) Homepage Journal
    OK, here is the challenge:

    Hitachi's new wheeled robot versus Honda's Asimo and Sony's Qrio in BATTLE STAIRS! First one down a flight of 100 steps intact wins.


  • by filmmaker ( 850359 ) * on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:30PM (#11959511) Homepage
    Totota and Hitachi got nuthin' on MIT's Cog and Kismet []

    I foresee a fight scene ala Anchorman; Cog wielding a switch-blade.

    "Como estas, bitches!"
  • by oskard ( 715652 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:31PM (#11959521)
    "The robot has a vocabulary of about 100 words and could be trained for practical office and factory use"

    I don't know about you, but a 100 word vocabulary is already vastly superior to some of the factory workers I've worked with.
  • by spawnofbill ( 757153 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:31PM (#11959524)
    Does anyone else get the mental image of a large feathered robot with a tendency to hump sunbathing women? Or is it just me?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why did we hear no hyperbole from Steve Jobs prior to this?
  • by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:32PM (#11959545)
    ... as long as they don't enslave humans in order to protect them and make a cyborg with prejudice for robots our only hope of freedom.

    Ah, and rape a fine writers' memory in the process!
  • Oooh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Robotron23 ( 832528 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:32PM (#11959547)
    It bears a likeness to R2-D2...

    Now all they need to do is affix a gin & tonic brewer...
  • by ciroknight ( 601098 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:34PM (#11959568)
    Is that the only companies willing to do any practical research in robotics is car companies because they use robotics on such a daily basis (the building of cars, of course).

    Not only that, robotics is one of the most fun branches of modern computing and engineering, and yet so few engineers actually go into it. It's a shame we aren't meeting up with more robots in real life (Fast foods should be relegated to robotics by now, as the food quality tends to resemble it)...
    • Actually, i find these robot anouncements by major electronic companies pure PR moves. Yes, they look cool and can do nifty things - but they aren't much good for anything else. We're still a far cry away from humanoid robots to become common, and, more important, useful.

      Specialized robots, like you mentioned, it's a whole different deal, and i agree. Automatized construction is the only industry i can think of that invest heavily in robotic research - we could use specialzed robots elsewhere.
      • One of the coolest specialized robots I've seen to date is the robot that's going to be installed here at the University of Louisville as soon as they complete the renovation of the Library building. (Search for Robotic Retrieval System on your favorite search engine).

        Basically it's going to be a robot to retrieve books in the library, allowing the books to be packed denser on the shelves, thus boosting the capacity of our Library by 1.2M books. This kind of technology is amazing, and we should be findin
        • Allowing the books to be packed denser on the shelves? You mean they're not already stacked side by side? Or, do you mean that they're getting rid of those pesky wide aisles that humans need to navigate among the stacks?
    • Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:58PM (#11959855) Journal

      To me, the saddest part about all this is that the only companies willing to do any practical research in robotics are Japanese car companies because they look farther into the future than the next quarterly earnings report. The Japanese car companies are pumping R&D dollars into developing new technologies that will help them in the long run. The American car companies are taking that money and pumping it into bonuses for CEOs so they can buy a new ivory backscracther every year.

      Face it, we just don't have the drive to improve that companies in other countries do.


      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @09:15PM (#11960638)
        Yep, those crazy Japanese CAR companies.

        If you'll excuse me, I have to return my Sony rental car and pick up my Hitachi at the body shop.

      • Re:Actually... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by vikstar ( 615372 )
        To me, the saddest part is that they call a robot on wheels humanoid. Excuse me, but being a researcher in robots, if it doesn't have two legs, its not humanoid.
    • Is that the only companies willing to do any practical research in robotics is car companies because they use robotics on such a daily basis (the building of cars, of course).

      I wish they'd make robot cars. Then we could walk around safe in the comfort of knowing that cars have been given a survival instinct and they won't let drunk people make them swerve into pedestrians and whatnot.

      But I figure that the Detroit business men got put off the whole robotics thing by Robocop. I mean, come on, who do you th
    • I spent quite a bit of time working in a university intelligent robotics lab... and while yes, its interesting work, it takes a special breed of person to really stick with it. Most work is very intensive and slow - implementing theories found in papers, performing simulations and what not. And at the moment, much of it is still focused on such basic tasks like having a robot know where it is given its sensory input (which is still extremely crude given the tools we have... the future is machine vision, a
  • by mfender9 ( 725994 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:34PM (#11959572)
    Obviously much effort has been put into making this as closely resemble us wheeled humanoids as possible. Hitachi, I applaud you!
  • by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:35PM (#11959577) Homepage Journal
    During a brief sojourn to Japan a couple of years back, there was a music store that had a robotics theme.

    Very little stock was on hand, but you would select the music you wanted on one of the robots. It'd burn the audio CD, print up the liner, and assemble a shrink-wrapped product for a couple of yen more than one you'd get off the shelf, then dance around the room playing the biggest hit off the album.

    The experience would only have been cooler if it could talk with you, although the sushi-dispensing robots did have a few stock phrases and voice recognition (you had to shout for them to hear you however).

  • Robot on a segway (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mzwaterski ( 802371 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:36PM (#11959585)
    Its a robot on a segway...

    I like the idea, but does it fall over and break when the batteries die? Are they going to add a third wheel for safety reasons. (LOL)

  • by Noose For A Neck ( 610324 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:36PM (#11959596)
    I'm not robotics expert, I'm just an engineering student, but it seems to me that humanoid robots are a sort of marketing victory more than being a genuine breakthrough.

    Most industrial robots I've seen don't need a humanoid form at all, and I can imagine several cases were the humanoid form is actually an impairment to getting work done. Why not go with more structurally efficient designs, like a spider, instead of focusing on bipedal bots for uses requiring ambulation?

    • Because that would be scary ... ok? Thanks.
    • by e2d2 ( 115622 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:46PM (#11959719)
      Why not go with more structurally efficient designs, like a spider, instead of focusing on bipedal bots for uses requiring ambulation?

      As long as it has a face I can punch I don't care what shape it comes in.

      But in all seriousness I do agree, the quest for human shaped robots is intriguing. We are obviously not the most able bodied creatures when it comes to our "form factor", our superiority is not in our shape but in our huge monkey brain.

      Maybe it's to out people at ease, but I for one do _not_ welcome our new humanoid robot overlords. It creeps me out when things that don't have a soul start talking to me. Call me crazy.

      • It creeps me out when things that don't have a soul start talking to me. Call me crazy.

        Ever met a lawyer?

      • There is actually one thing we do better than any animal. We throw. No other animal is capable of throwing anything as far or as accurately as we are, and that's not just from a big-brained standpoint.

        It's almost like we're spear and rock-chucking machines.

        There are other benefits to being bipedal. With two legs we can squeeze through smaller spaces than we could if we had four or eight. We're one of the only mammals that is exclusively bipedal. Even gorillas walk with their arms. We'd probably have
    • by hauntedspaceship ( 548729 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:57PM (#11959836) Homepage
      Because our environment is designed and optimized for humans. By creating robots that resemble us (same actuators (hands), ability to understand and speak our language, see what we can see), then they already can operate in our environment.

      There is also the idea of robot-human interaction: would you rather interact with Asimo or a spider?
    • by utexaspunk ( 527541 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:58PM (#11959843)
      because what they want to move toward are all-purpose robots capable of serving in a variety of environments shared with humans. most of these environments are currently designed for humans. obviously the best form factor for maneuvering such an environment and manipulating objects designed for humans would be that of a human.

      that, and they look way cool...
      • So what is wrong with a spider type robot? So long as they are not more than a foot square and more than 6 feet tall they should have no problem with the vast majority of houses, and it is a lot easier for them to keep their balance when there are always plenty of legs on the ground.

        I want a robot in my house to clean my house. I don't care if it is an ugly thing, because I want to set it to wake up at 8am and vacuum the stairs (seriously, the stairs in my house are my biggest regular maintenance headach

        • can a spider-type robot be tall enough to reach overhead cabinets and high shelves, small enough to fit through a doorway and share a room with humans, fast enough to keep up with a normal walking human, and still be agile enough to scale stairs and navigate a room full of junk on the floor?

          and is vacuuming all you can think of for a robot to do? i want mine to do my laundry, do the dishes, go shopping for me, cook, and clean the rest of my house. everything one used to keep a woman for (aside from sex, al
    • Asimov gives a good argument for humanoid robots in Caves of Steel - namely economy.

      Do you buy a robot cooker, microwave, eggbeater etc. etc. Or a robot that can use the tools already?
    • Not because we want humanoid robots as such; there is some use for them, of course, but you're right: they aren't the solution to all problems.

      However, many of the problems involved in making a bipedal robots are the same problems you get in other areas. For instance, I suspect that the problems in making a robot walk on two legs are present to some extent in making a 4 or 8 legged robot. That is, while we can make an 8 legged robot now, if we knew how to make a 2 legged one, we could probably make a bette
      • Anything with six or more legs always has a stable centre-of-gravity, and doesn't have to worry about maintaining a stable configuration. With three or four legs, you have unstability as soon as you take one leg off the ground. With only two legs, you always have unstability and need sophisticated real-time circuitry to maintain balance.
    • like a spider, instead of focusing on bipedal bots for uses requiring ambulation

      If controlling two legs is complex then controlling eight should be a snap right? Please...
      • For walking, it is. With two you have to deal with vast amounts of balance problems, and its not easy to correct. With eight (or six, or four) you can move a pair of legs without having to worry about stability, because it still has all the rest to fall back on. Controlling the legs isn't the complex part, the motions for walking on two legs are vastly complex compared to simple patterns for four, six, and eight.
  • Can it do my laundry? Can it Walk the dog? Can it cook my meals? Hrmm... Guess its not a replacement for Wife 1.0, I never shoulda upgraded in the first place.
    • Laundry, no. But you could probably attach a buggy to it and have it carry it for you.

      Walk the dog? Sure! Attach the leash to the unit and let it pull.

      Cook your meals? Perhaps if it were modified with a flipper arm and a dunking arm, and a voice module to say "Would you like fries with that?"

      It may not be up to part for Wife 1.0, but hell if it isn't a good pet ;).
    • "Can it do my laundry? Can it Walk the dog? Can it cook my meals? Hrmm... Guess its not a replacement for Wife 1.0, I never shoulda upgraded in the first place."

      Being an early adopter is hell. I still haven't gotten any calls on my video phone. I ended up rerouting my cable to it so I could pretend celebrities are calling.
    • If you're already at the point where you refer to your wife in version numbers, prepare for Wife 2.0, 3.0, 3.1 and 3.11 For Workgroups.
    • Can it do my laundry? Can it Walk the dog? Can it cook my meals? Hrmm... Guess its not a replacement for Wife 1.0, I never shoulda upgraded in the first place.

      I was going to break your heart and let you in on something ELSE that robot can't do with you, but then I realized you said WIFE 1.0 and not GIRLFRIEND 1.0, so the point is likely moot?
    • As long as you control the power switch, it will be a huge upgrade from Wife 1.0.
  • Gizmo Duck [] has a cousin! ;)

  • Slow Learners (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hopbine ( 618442 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:39PM (#11959623)
    could be "trained" for practical office and factory use in as little as five to six years. Or is this how long it normally takes.....
    • We had an intern a few years ago who wasn't nearly as useful. I figured training him to do light office work would probably take about nine or ten years.
  • by e2d2 ( 115622 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:41PM (#11959647)
    Since when did humanoids have wheels?

    Damn I'm behind, I gotta get rid of these stupid legs.

    • In case of sonic attack, use your wheels, it is what they are for.

      If wheels are not available metal, not organic, limbs should be used whenever possible.

      Remember, survival means every man for himself.
      You can help noone else.
      Do not panic.

      (and if anyone recognises that reference, I'll put them on my 'friends' list).
  • by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:41PM (#11959657) Homepage Journal
    I, for one, welcome our new office work performing over-

    Awe, crap, who am I kidding? I'm going to be freakin' outsourced to one of these little @#$@#$ers...

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:43PM (#11959690) Journal
    Japan is pouring billions into robotic software research in part because they don't allow much immigration and migrant workers, and thus want to develop robots to fill those niches instead.

    However, rather than build an artificial brain, it appears more cost effective and closer to improve the bandwidth costs so that such bots can be controlled from low-wage nations. We don't need artificial intelligence because there are billions of idle human brains around the planet.

    I suppose one could argue that remote-control servants could end up causing malice, but artificial alternives may do the same either because AI might go bizerk, or more likely because it is not good enough yet and will make stupid mistakes.

    In short, remote-controll appears the more reachable goal at this stage. Bandwidth cost reduction does not appear to need the giant breakthrus that AI does.
    • Because not doing research in order to give idle humans busy-work is retarded.

      BTW, it was a bit surreal to read the BBC quoting the robots in the article...
  • Holding office (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Onan ( 25162 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:45PM (#11959708)
    I first misread the summary as, "...has a vocabulary of about 100 words and could be trained for political office use..."

    (Of course, my first thought was that that's vastly overqualified for what it apparently takes to be elected President these days.)

  • Any 2000AD reader would recognise that as an ancestor of foul-mouthed sanitation droid Ro-Jaws! Hammerstein surely can't be far off...
  • by bananahead ( 829691 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @07:59PM (#11959859) Journal
    This will end the hiring of new employees at Microsoft. Just the fact that it moves AT ALL, much less 3.6 MPH will render the entire program management, middle management and test groups obsolete.
  • Two wheels, side-by-side and self-balancing is pretty much Dean's turf. I wonder if he licensed it to Hitachi. If so, go Dean. If not, Hitachi might have some 'splaining to do.
  • by LnxAddct ( 679316 ) <> on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @08:06PM (#11959916)
    The problem with these robots is how fragile they are. I havent physically seen the other two robots, but Honda's Asimo stays in a little closet when in the lab. Not your typical closet of course, but you get the idea. When in the lab, all you see are other cheaper parts of robots similar or duplicated from Asimo. All the work and main testing is done on these pieces (which makes sense). The thing that I don't like though, and many people don't realize, is that before Asimo is ever unveiled to the public, he undergoes at least 8 hours of configuration. This is each and every time, and then he can only run for maybe an hour and a half iirc. These robots certainly have a lot of potential, and one day possibly could do factory work, but right now the public is being mislead thinking we are further along then we really are. People see this robot and think it probably just walks around all day and they'd like one. There are certainly some huge milestones being made, but the most publically known robots are imho overhyped. I'm not being a pessimist, I would just like to see even more reasearch in humanoid robotics so we can have the future sooner rather then later. Even just a self configuring Asimo would be a huge step in the right direction.
  • by PxM ( 855264 )
    Hmm...I can still outrun that so I guess I don't have to welcome our new robotic overlords for a couple more months. We'll only have to start worrying if the robots can actually move fast enough to catch and enslave us.

    Free iPod? Try a free Nintendo DS, GC, PS2, Xbox []
    Wired article as proof []
  • Does anyone know if it actually is the bottom half of a Segway [], or if it's just a rip-off of Segway's tech?

    The bottom looks a bit different, so it's not directly what they show on the Segway RMP page. The robot also looks to have a left/right tilt feature which would be independant of the base... though it doesn't lean too much, so it might not be a significant difference.

    Are there any other english-language references to this thing? It must actually be news for a change, there appear to be only a handful

  • by kryogen1x ( 838672 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @08:22PM (#11960101)
    ...welcome our segway-like overlords.
  • It's like Moore's law; every few years these robots will double in intelligence and capabilities until they exceed that of ordinary humans. They can already outplay us in chess. How much longer before they can replace your average bank teller or telemarketer or front line tech support? What about a restaurant table busser or dishwasher? Soon there will be nothing but robots in the workplace, plus a few human management types.

    In fact I can foresee a time when robots will be the managers. Unlike (some)
    • Actually, they can't really outplay us at chess.

      Note that the mechanism used to beat a human chess player was to consider literally billions of board combinations in each room, whereas even the best human chess master might only consider a few hundred combinations at most before he moves, and of those only analyze a handful to any great detail.

      If a computer only considered as many board moves as a real chess master, even *I* could probably beat it.

    • "I want to be able to walk about in places like Shinjuku and Shibuya [shopping districts] in the future without bumping into people and cars," Pal told reporters.

      Is it referring to motor control systems? Or something more sinister?
  • It can't even climb a single flight of stairs.

    I'm reminded of the serious design flaw the original Daleks posessed.

  • This is what I love about the japanese firms like this, that they do things mentioned in the article such as "They will try to out-do eachother with robots"

    These forward thinking and risk taking companies will make the world more what we see in Anime, and possibly end in the Great War.

    Realistically though, american companies did not recruit and employ young creative talent *AND* give them visible projects/influence over products as much as japanese companies have. While US firms would hire young engineers
  • The robot has a vocabulary of about 100 words and could be trained for practical office and factory use

    Wow, it's just like a chav.
  • by machinegunhand ( 867735 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @09:03PM (#11960513) Homepage
    ...the robot used its limited vocabulary to ask who came up with the name "Emiew," followed by the words, "prepare to die."
  • I think it's very important that all robots be made with wheels.

    This way, no matter how badly things go with the laws of robotics we can just go up a flight of stairs to be safe.

    I'm glad to see they agree with me.
  • Looks like Emiew can nod its head...I'd love to stick GAC [] into this bot...1.4 million binary human propositions...Emiew would be very entertaining in a quiet Turing Test kind of way...

  • "You have been replaced by a small Perl script..."

    It's getting closer to reality. I can feel it.

  • It is a WHEELED robot and it can only go 3.7mph? I wouldn't be bragging about speed just yet.
  • by otisg ( 92803 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @10:26PM (#11961236) Homepage Journal
    Until it can get my groceries and do my laundry, I'm not buying! I already have a Rumba - it doesn't talk, but does a good job vacuuming.

  • They either mispelled "wheels" in a very contrived way or they are attempting to distract people from the fact that they can't do legs.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.