Japanese Robots: Honda's UNI-CUB with a Civilian, a Smartphone, an Escape, and a Lesson (VIDEO)

Japanese Robots: Honda's UNI-CUB with a Civilian, a Smartphone, and an Escape (VIDEO) - AkihabaraNews.com

In its 18 public months, Honda’s semi-robotic UNI-CUB personal mobility device hasn’t seen a lot of the spotlight, but that might be changing; last week, here in Tokyo, we managed to capture some raw footage of a UNI-CUB test ride, smartphone control, and a rolling departure (VIDEO).

• • •

Honda’s UNI-CUB:
A Sitting Segway; Though Much Smarter Than

“Sitting Segway” might get the point across, but the UNI-CUB is actually much more advanced, practical, and safe. As does the Segway, Honda’s mobility scooter reacts to a user’s weight shifting in the desired direction of travel, but the UNI-CUB also moves laterally and is capable of almost zero-radius turns. It's also not very fast, doesn't have a huge bar in the middle, and if you have to bail out, you just kinda, you know, standup.

Oh, and as you’ll see in the video, UNI-CUB can also be remotely controlled by smartphone... which is very cool, but admittedly is kind of a feature in search of a purpose; during R&D, it probably seemed like a pretty good idea.

And speaking of R&D, meet UNI-CUB’s ancestors:

Honda UNI-CUB - AkihabaraNews.com
That’s the family tree, right there. But outside of the robogeekosphere, most people would have no idea what these things are or who made them. These days, relatively more of us know about UNI-CUB because 1. it actually works, and 2. robots are all the rage. But, alas, UNI-CUB is not coming to a town near you, it cannot be purchased, and in it’s current form will probably never go retail. While pretty and high-tech, it’s still just a research project.
 
The only way to actually see one up close or go for a ride would be attending some kind of demo event, or perhaps a tradeshow like, well something like CEATEC 2013:

Honda’s Array of Assistive Robotics Research
In addition to cars, motorcycles, the occasional airplane, normal and racing lawnmowers, and the UNI-CUB, Honda has a whole lot of assistive robotics stuff going on. It’s safe to say they’re the industry leader here in Japan, and probably the world. That’s not due solely to ASIMO and the proprietary technology derived from the humanoid; Honda has a whole menu of highly advanced assistive devices backed by years of R&D:

Honda Assistive Robotics - AkihabaraNews.com

For now, civilians cannot take a UNI-CUB home to scoot around on, but the wait won’t be long. Well, at least in Japan, where, in partnership with real estate and development giant Sekisui House, Honda’s working to design homes around assistive robotics.

For the executive-level robogeek, sometimes, and by sometimes we mean always, it’s good be in Japan.

• • •

Addendum: Why Didn’t Segway Pay Attention to Honda, and Why Doesn’t Toyota Pay Attention to Both?
Before the wrap, we have to jump back to the Segway for a few moments, and we have to give Honda just a few more props.

The Segway debuted in 2001, and most of the public had never seen such technology; it was hailed as a revolution in transportation. For about 36 hours, that is. It took very little time to realize that, while the Segway was indeed a fantastic technological achievement, when it came to practical usability, it was the two-wheeled supertech engineering version of lucite platform shoes with a built-in ant farm. Kinda wow, but then kinda like... Uhhh, okay, so... it's a bit weird. What exactly do I do with it?

The Segway is a textbook example of a technology looking for a place to be used, instead of the inverse - which, you know, often tends to work out better. But it gets worse. See, there was a Japan-based company with global reach that already knew how much it wasn't going to work, already knew that Segway-style mobility was wildly impractical, and had already moved on.

When the Segway was made public, a group of Honda engineers had to be rushed to emergency rooms after losing consciousness from hysterical laughter and/or aggressive fits of eye rolling and/or face palming:

Honda UNI-CUB - AkihabaraNews.com

Yep, those are images from an internal competition Honda held not too long after beginning their robotics & personal mobility research in 1986. Just look at those - you can see analog pixels - they’re so old that someone actually had to photograph a TV screen.

Well, the Segway debuted in 2001. But Segway can be forgiven. They’re based in Boston, and that's pretty far from Japan. Plus the language barrier. Cultural barrier. Sometimes the food's weird over here. Etc.

On the other hand, a few months back, Toyota dusted off their 5 year-old, so-not-a-robot Segway clone, the Winglet. We’ve pointed out that 1. the Winglet is not a robot, and 2. the Winglet is going to do as Segway did (crash; lit. and fig.). Toyota just can’t hear us, they can’t hear Segway, and even though they’re obviously right here in Japan, they can’t hear Honda either. In fact, Segway clone in tow, they were right next to the UNI-CUB demo last week at CEATEC.

Ouch.

• • •

Images: Honda; AkihabaraNews.com

 

Source: 

Related Articles

Lego MINDSTORMS EV3 Guy!

They once had little to do with actual robotics, but two product iterations and 15 years later, about to release their 3rd-generation kit, Lego is at the top of educational, DIY, and plain old fun robot building. MINDSTORMS EV3 is coming, and the robo-geekosphere is buzzing. And whirring.

• • •

Legos, Robots, and Education

Reno J. Tibke - June 07, 2014

JTFF - Japanese Technology from the Future Friday! - AkihabaraNews.com

This week it’s octopedal Japanese electronics conglomerate OMRON getting its

Headless Robot Chasing a Laser Pointer (is so dang cute) - AkihabaraNews.com
We hate to use the word ‘cute’ when discussing robotics, but… Come on now...just have a watch and tell us that ain’t the case. You can’t. Unless you’re mean, uptight, and cold, cold of heart.

Reno J. Tibke - June 22, 2014

SCENE IN TOKYO: Tokyo Toy Store - AkihabaraNews.com
Long before Michael Bay, and even before Hasbro's incarnation, Transformers were Takara Tomy's Microman and Diaclone, and Nintendo's Super Mario, long a global phenomenon, was first a game for Nintendo's Japan-only Famicom console.

Reno J. Tibke - August 30, 2014

Japanese Robots: Pepper Gallery!

LISTEN INSTEAD OF READING

Robots in 2014 - AkihabaraNews.com

Contributor Sean P. Bullock is a materials manufacturing professional, robotics nerd-enthusiast, citizen scholar, and manager of the unofficial DARPA Robotics Challenge Facebook page.

• • •

Why Does Japan Get Dyson's New 360 Eye Robo-Vacuum First? - AkihabaraNews.com
The steadily plodding iterations of iRobot’s Roomba and its legion of copycats are old hat, and the collective We aren’t really impressed anymore. While the 360 Eye performs the same task, it stands out, and just kinda has that new robot smell. The talking points/broad strokes/things to know are:
Lego Mindstorms EV3 Robotics Kit: World's Best Robotics Education Tool? [REISSUE]
They once had little to do with actual robotics, but two product iterations and 15 years later, about to release their 3rd-generation kit [sic], Lego is at the top of educational, DIY, and plain old fun robot building. MINDSTORMS EV3 is coming, and the robo-geekosphere is buzzing...and whirring.
Hello!MiP is a two-wheeled robot controlled with human hand gestures. You can control Hello!MiP just by using hand gestures without touching it - called Control Mode. There are other modes through which you can enjoy the robot as well, such as Dance Mode.

Just Saying
Yes, it matters that they're Korean!
...because, of course, AkihabaraNews.com is "Japan & Asia Tech • Cool and Cultural News." So, we saw this cool robot news, could hear in the accent that these researchers are actually from Korea, and boom: justification! (in fact, according to their MIT profiles, they both studied at Yonsei University in Seoul)

ATLAS is Coming for ASIMO - AkihabaraNews.com

Honda bills ASIMO as the world's most advanced humanoid robot, and taken as a whole, it’s probably accurate to say. But an American robot is catching up, and unless Honda’s got some new tricks (ASIMO X?), ATLAS is going to shove ASIMO aside and take his cookies.

Murata Manufacturing recently unveiled a team of 10 robots called the Murata Cheerleaders, which dance in formation while balancing on top of balls.

The Murata Cheerleaders are Murata’s fourth generation of robots, following the bicycle-riding MURATA BOY in 1991, the second MURATA BOY in 2005, and the unicycle-riding MURATA GIRL in 2008. All of these robots incorporate Murata’s proprietary core technology.

Pages