Tech Jungle

Robot that dances to iPod music
June 3, 2007, 5:06 am
Filed under: Gadgets, Technology

Robot that dances to iPod music

A new Japanese robot twists and rolls to iPod tunes in an intricate dance based on complex mathematics, a technology developers said will one day enable robots to move about spontaneously instead of following preprogrammed motions. Equipped with Kenwood Corp speaker systems, Tokyo based venture ZMP Inc’s 14 inch long Miuro robot which looks like a white ball wedged between two halves of an egg, wheels about in time with music from an iPod portable player, which locks into the machine.

At a demonstration in Tokyo, the 11 pound Miuro pivoted about on a stage in time to beats of a pop music track. Its dance wasn’t preprogrammed, but generated by the robot itself. Scientists involved in the robot’ development believe the technology could one day lead to robots capable of spontaneous motion. Miuro uses algorithms or mathematical rules to analyse music and translate the beats into dances, according to ZMP President Hisashi Taniguchi.

Unlike older Miuros, which hit stores last August, the new prototype is fitted with software based on what scientist call chaotic itinerancy, a mathematical pattern similar to the movements of a bee circling from flower to flower as it collects nectar. That allows the new Miuro to act spontaneously and unpredictably “just like a child playing” said Tokyo University researcher Takashi Ikegami, who developed the software. Other improvements will let users set the Miuro like an alarm clock so it wheels into the bedroom and blasts music at a certain time, for example according to Taniguchi future versions of the Miuro will also use inbuilt sensors to proactively seek out people to play tunes to, he said.

The $895 original Miuro can also receive wireless signals from a personal computer to play iTunes and other stored digital files. Separately sold options add a camera that beams images to PC or let owners control their Miuros by mobile phones. Miuro, short for “music innovation based on utility robot technology” is only on sale in Japan.

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