CES: MuRata Boy robot gets a unicycling cousin

Summary:Tablets like the BlackBerry PlayBook or Motorola Xoom may have grabbed the headlines at CES 2011, with the latter picking up CNET's Best in Show award along the way, but Kyoto-based component manufacturer MuRata came up with a nifty way of showcasing it products — by building bicycle and unicycle riding robots.And as regular readers probably already knew, we're a sucker for robots.

Tablets like the BlackBerry PlayBook or Motorola Xoom may have grabbed the headlines at CES 2011, with the latter picking up CNET's Best in Show award along the way, but Kyoto-based component manufacturer MuRata came up with a nifty way of showcasing it products — by building bicycle and unicycle riding robots.

And as regular readers probably already knew, we're a sucker for robots.

MuRata Boy making his way along a 2cm wide beam. Photo credit: Ben Woods.

Named MuRata Boy and MuRata Girl, the robots contain components that are found in a range of tech products, from consumer to smart meters.

Both can successfully ride along a 2cm wide beam, (MuRata Boy can also navigate an S-shaped balance beam or ride up a 25 degree slope) thanks to numerous sensors, which include a gyro to allow them to stand stationary or move very slowly, an ultrasonic sensor to stop them from bumping into things , a shock sensor that monitors bumps and unevenness in the riding surface and an NTC Thermistor to monitor temperature. There's also an on-board CCD camera.

The view through MuRata Boy's head-mounted CCD camera. Image credit: Ben Woods.

As well as a boatload of sensors, MuRata Boy has an EMI filter to reduce electromagnetic intereference, an antenna that relays radio signals from PCs and mobiles, and a wireless module — which integrates Wi-Fi, 1seg and GPS into one chip — which can send or receive operating signals, music (which is played out through a tiny flat speaker) and other info. Clever little chap.

MuRata Girl is built from a similar array of sensors, but has a few different components, made necessary by the added difficulty of riding a unicycle.

MuRata Girl hopes one day to be able to automatically follow behind MuRata Boy. She can already imitate his beam balancing trick. Photo credit: Ben Woods.

Part of her solution are the two gyros on her back which detect sideways and lengthways movement to calculate the slanting angle of her body. MuRata girl uses a flywheel in her chest to correct left to right slant and rotates the unicycle wheel slowly forwards and backwards to maintain her front to back balance.

Like her favourite and more adept cousin, MuRata Girl can also make short work of riding along a balance beam thanks to the dual CCD cameras that allow her to see where she is going. Admittedly, her top speed isn't all that swift (5cm per second) but she has no problems whatsoever riding backwards.

So how much are these and when are they arriving? Well, brace yourself robofans, they're not. Sadly they exist only to showcase MuRata's component manufacturing prowess. Pah.

Topics: Mobility

About

With a psychology degree under his belt, Ben set off on a four-year sojourn as a professional online poker player, but as the draw of the gambling life began to wane his attentions turned to more wholesome employment.With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a s... Full Bio

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