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IREX 2013

From left: the 2011 NWR 002 prototype, the 2013 commercially-ready LIGHBOT and the prototy...

There is no better example of the rapid rate of product development than NSK's move into the area of robotics. At IREX 2011, NSK showed a prototype robot designed to safely guide the visually-impaired, with a footprint of 520 x 660 mm (20 x 26 in) and weight of 40 kg (88 lb). This week, just two years later, NSK showed two versions its Lighbot guide robot that represent a 75 percent weight reduction and an 83 percent footprint reduction. The ingenious right-or-left-hand-drive interface has been both replaced and improved, and all other aspects of the latest bots are equal to or better than the original.  Read More

Toyota showcased its new torque servo module in a pair of compliant robot arms (Photo: Mik...

In the first decade of the new millennium, Toyota's Partner Robot program was known for its truly incredible humanoid robot band that could play the trumpet, trombone, tuba, drums, and even the violin. Gradually these projects, which were designed to entertain while demonstrating the deftness with which Toyota's robot hands could manipulate objects, gave way to more practical applications. The automotive giant was on hand at the International Robot Exhibition (IREX) 2013 to showcase its latest robotic innovations, including the Winglet, the Human Support Robot, and a new compliant robot arm.  Read More

The UNiMO Grace is a stylish Apple-esque armchair-on-wheels, while the Adventure model is ...

The tracked UNiMO 400 W EV drive-train debuted at IREX last week, promising new levels of personal mobility for wheelchair users. Both models of the Unimo wheelchair will be in production by the end of this month: the US$18,000 Unimo Grace and the US$10,000 Unimo Adventure, one a stylish armchair on wheels, the other a sport model for going places you cannot normally go in a wheelchair.  Read More

A couple of social trash box robots, on display in Tokyo at IREX 2013

Wouldn't it be great if we had robotic garbage cans that could move around on their own and pick up litter? Well, engineers from the Interaction and Communications Design Lab at Japan's Toyohashi University of Technology are part-way there. Their bots, however, ask people to pick up the trash for them.  Read More

As you can see, Shovelhead creates insects, fish and animals that look like they are alive...

If you are a geek-at-heart, there's likely no more loved artist than Yasuhito Udagawa (AKA Shovelhead). I photographed one of his exhibitions two years ago and it caused an avalanche of interest in his techno-mutant life-forms, so when he emailed me to let me know there was another exhibition on the last day of the International Robotics Expo, I was there!  Read More

SociBot-Mini, on display in Tokyo

Full-bodied humanoid robots are undeniably fascinating, but why pay for the lower part of the body if you don't need it? For that matter, why pay for the arms if you don't need them, either? That's the thinking behind the SociBot and SociBot-Mini interactive robots, which we just "met" at the International Robotics Exhibition.  Read More

Realityworks' RealCare Baby 3 is an electronic stand-in for the real thing

There's a popular educational exercise in which teens are required to take care of a bag of flour for several days, as if it's a baby. The idea is that by having to lug that bag around with them everywhere they go, while keeping it from getting damaged, the kids will realize how much responsibility is involved in raising an infant. As any parent will tell you, however, there's a lot more to baby-raising than just safely lugging them around. That's why products like Realityworks' RealCare Baby were created.  Read More

Gizmag's Mike Hanlon trying out the ARM-1

Osaka-based Kubota Corporation has built a robust brand for its agricultural machinery over the last three decades, and hence it was no surprise to see the company showing an unpowered exoskeleton at the International Robotics Exhibition.  Read More

The HX-1 Rescue Helicopter (Photo: Mike Hanlon/Gizmag)

The Hirobo stand at the International Robotics Exhibition in Tokyo this week was full of surprises. The first was the appearance of the HX-1 unmanned electric helicopter, due to go into production before the end of the year, but an even bigger surprise was in store when you opened the brochure – details of the company's planned personal (manned) BIT electric micro helicopter.  Read More

Asahi's new robotic draft beer dispenser

Japan's Asahi brewery looks set to steal a march on its competition by developing a robotic draft beer pouring machine for high-volume bars. Connecting to the keg, the machine pours six perfect beers, taking around 12 seconds per glass with zero wastage. The machine was shown for the first time at the International Robotics Expo in Tokyo yesterday, and is expected to be available within two years.  Read More

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