Got a chip on your shoulder, pal? Or is that just a 20-axis humanoid telepresence robot?
For cyber-boffins from Japan's Yamagata University, it's the latter. It seems this creepy little golem has been riding around on shoulders in northern Japan, probably freaking citizens out.
The project, dubbed the MH-2 wearable communication robot, was recently presented at the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in St. Paul, Minn., where it turned some heads.
As IEEE Spectrum tells us, the MH-2 is a telepresence robot that acts as an avatar for your friends around the world. With its intricate parallel wire mechanisms and 20 axes of motion, it can reproduce their movements in a realistic fashion.
As seen in the video below, the shoulder bot can wave, dock a mock bow, and perform other movements. It even has a chest movement to mimic breathing. The 22 actuators aren't exactly discreet, but they're placed behind the puppet on top of a backpack.
The remote operator, meanwhile, would use a motion-capture system such as Kinect, as well as two-way audio and video feeds.
The MH-2 is the work of Professor Yuichi Tsumaki and students at Yamagata University's Telerobotics Lab.
In a related paper, they write that with the droid, "sharing experiences can be easily achieved. This means a person on a local site can enjoy the environment of a remote site together with a friend or family member in real-time. Similar wearable active camera systems were also proposed."
The MH-2 has come a long way since the T1 Telecommunicator prototype, a simple shoulder avatar with only four degrees of movement.
The T1 was unsophisticated, cute, and endearing. I don't think we can say that about the MH-2.
No doubt the engineering that went into it is impressive and required painstaking work. But I'll wager this marionette is a little too human for many people, and might even fall into the Uncanny Valley of artificial humanoid creepiness.
You'd think every roboticist in Japan would be feverishly working on devices to help clean up the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which remains a threat, but this is not the case.
Unless the MH-2 can grow legs and get to work in radioactive debris sites, it's just an amusing parlor trick.