Tech Digest's Robot World Cup: Round 1

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Forget the football World Cup. It’s not as if England are ever going to win it again after all. No, the only World Cup worth caring about is Tech Digest’s Robot World Cup, where we’re pitching 64 of the planet’s best bots into a knockout competition to find out who’s best.

The first half of Round 1 ran the other day, so it’s time for the second half. And if you missed it, I’ve tacked the previous matchups onto the bottom, so this is the only post you need read.

A quick rules recap: no celebrity/fictional bots allowed (sorry Optimus Prime), the judges’ decision (i.e. mine) is final, and for the purposes of this competition, we’re ignoring blurring the boundaries between ‘true’ robots and remote-controlled bot-toys. On with the bot battling!

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Robot Nurses v AAC-AI Cookingrobot
If the NHS is struggling to recruit enough nurses (something to do with them all coming down with MRSA), perhaps it should turn to robonurses. The EU-funded IWARD project is developing some, capable of mopping up spillages, distributing medicines, and laughing at male patients’ manhoods when they’re under general anasthetic. Useful, sure, but not quite as cool as the AAC-AI Cookingrobot, which’d be flummoxed by bedpans, but can rustle up a mean fried wonton and butterfly shrimp meal. Cookingrobot wins.
More info: Robot nursesCookingrobot

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Anty the Huggy Robot v Cube-Works CAM-08
Robots come in peace, y’know. They’re friendly types. At least, that’s the idea behind Anty, a cute green robot who likes to be cuddled. He’s designed to be a companion for a child. Meanwhile CAM-08 is an equally child-friendly bot with a natural walking motion, albeit one powered by a remote control rather than full robotic logic. Swizz! Anty wins, despite being a bit of a hippybot.
More info: Anty the Huggy RobotCube-Works CAM-08

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Robot Beggar v Robotic Paparazzo
If robots are ultimately about doing jobs that us humans would rather shirk, perhaps it’s not surprising that someone’s invented a robo-beggar. Apparently it gets around laws against panhandling in the street, which tend to cover humans and not robots. Meanwhile, students at New York University created a robo-paparazzo that automates the process of snapping celebs in the street, or chasing princesses into underpasses. Which would Paris Hilton rather not run into? Probably the PapBot, so RoboBeggar wins.
More info: Robot Beggar – Robotic Paparazzo

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l2 Robot v Tyco N.S.E.C.T.
The Italian l2 robot reminds us of the cheeky robodude in Short Circuit, even if he doesn’t actually do that much (and certainly doesn’t go on a madcap big-screen adventure in a world of uncomprehending humans). Let’s face it, he’s a bit rubbish in comparison to Tyco’s N.S.E.C.T., who’s the only missile-firing spiderbot money can buy at the moment. N.S.E.C.T. wins, despite being more toy than bot.
More info: l2 RobotTyco N.S.E.C.T.

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Spider ILD 01 v Sega Dream Cat
Grr. The Spider ILD 01 is a robomower (oh, alright, there might be a teensy element of remote control here too) that recently KILLED A HUMAN BEING in Denmark, when it overbalanced and fell on top of him. Sega’s Dream Cat toybot hasn’t killed anyone (yet), but it comes with five different sensors, and responds to your touch by pooing in your sock drawer blinking and moving its mouth and neck. Sega Dream Cat wins, because the robomower is plain Evil.
More info: Spider ILD 01Sega Dream Cat

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Giraffe Video Conferencing Robot v KornTech Rogun
Sadly the Giraffe isn’t an actual giraffe-bot that does whizzy video-conferencing as a sideline. Instead, it’s a souped-up webcam that tracks the camera to your eyes, making for less shifty video chat. Cool, but not half as cool as KornTech’s Rogun, which can walk, recognise your face and voice, show video on its 7-inch chest screen, and even route video calls to its belly. Rogun wins, no contest.
More info: Giraffe Video Conferencing RobotKornTech Rogun

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WiiGoBot v UBOT Cleaning Robot
WiiGoBot was created using a combination of LEGO Mindstorms and old computer manuals, and can apparently bowl a perfect game in Wii Sports Bowling. I’d be more impressed if it could also play as my team-mate for online Mario Strikers Charged matches. Meanwhile, UBOT is a Korean bot that’s a robovacuum but ALSO a robomop. But you can’t deny that cleaning is intrinsically duller than playing Wii games, so WiiGoBot wins.
More info: WiiGoBotUBOT

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Ballbot v Homersapien
Created by robotics research professor Ralph Hollis, Ballbot doesn’t have feet, but instead rolls around on a single large ball, balancing itself using motion sensors. And talking of legless, Duff-drinking Homer Simpson has his own robot, the Homersapien, which has 67 functions (65 more than the actual Homer, by my reckoning). And yes, it does say ‘D’oh!’. Homersapien wins.
More info: BallbotHomersapien

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iRobiQ v Gupi the Robot Guinea Pig
I met iRobiQ at CES this year: he’s a friendly droid who acts as an info service, an entertainment hub, and even sings karaoke songs with you. He’s also able to teach English to Japanese kids, and even function as a home security guard. By comparison, Gupi is a robot guinea pig with 30 different squeaks. Do you really need me to tell you that iRobiQ wins?
More info: iRobiQGupi the Robot Guinea Pig

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Tamanoi Vinegar Robot v Sex Club ToutBot
Buildup Co’s Tamanoi bot looks truly fearsome, like Darth Vader 2.0. However, his actual role isn’t quite as scary, given that he’s a mouthpiece for the Tamanoi Vinegar Corporation. Yep, that’s right: he bores humans with vinegar trivia for a living. But even that is more worthwhile than the job undertaken by bots in Osaka, who are being used to promote sex clubs. For being less seedy, VinegarBot wins.
More info: Tamanoi Vinegar BotSex Club ToutBot

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Spyke v KONDO KHR-2HV
Spyke was another robot making his global debut at the CES show this year, and he’s a spy-bot, using Wi-Fi, and his built-in microphone and video camera to spy on what’s happening in your house, and keep you informed. Meanwhile, the KHR-2HV is a flexible bot that (once put together) has 17 adjustable joints to do all manner of acrobatic tricks. I’m a paranoid man, so Spyke wins on the grounds that I might need one if my cats keep looking a bit suspicious.
More info: SpykeKONDO KHR-2HV

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Bot & Baby Bot v iRobot Create
For now, Bot and Baby Bot is just a patent, and a pretty loony one at that. See, Bot ‘gives birth’ to Baby Bot, and then they form a Bible-teaching double act, with Bot teaching the Old Testament, and Baby Bot teaching the New Testament. Hmm. On an entirely different plane of spiritual succour, iRobot Create is a customisable bot that’s capable of fetching your beer from the fridge. Sorry vicar, but iRobot Create wins this battle.
More info: Bot & Baby BotiRobot Create

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Reborg-Q Security Bot v Mospeng Kun TissueBot
Reborg-Q has a marvellous name, and he’s about as tough as he sounds, being a durable security guard robot, who detects trouble when guarding a premises, and then feeds live video back to his controller. I’d like to think he barks threats at burglars too, if he disturbs them. Meanwhile, Mospeng Kun distributes tissues to commuters with a smile on his face. Cute, but Reborg-Q wins by a robo-landslide.
More info: Reborg-QMospeng Kun

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Kansei Facial Robot v Termibot
Kansei is a new Japanese robot with 36 facial expressions, which it changes according to the words it reads. Although I have to say, when a robot reads the word BOMB, I’d rather it sprang into action to defuse it, than just looked a bit scared. Termibot doesn’t bother with fripperies such as emotions. It’s a 20cm-high termite-killing machine! Would it get rid of the ant infestation in my conservatory? However, Kansei wins, on emotional grounds.
More info: KanseiTermibot

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Spidersapien v Robopanda
With WowWee churning out robots like there’s no tomorrow (which, if they ever rise up against their human owners, there might not be), it’s no surprise to find two of them facing off. Spidersapien is basically Robosapien, except branded as a Spiderman robot. And yes, he can do some webslingy stuff. But Robopanda is way cuter, being a panda that reads bedtime stories to children. Sorry Spidey, but Robopanda wins.
More info: SpidersapienRobopanda

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HUBO FX-1 robochair v EveR2-Muse Robot
The HUBO FX-1 is a protective exoskeleton for humans to stomp about in difficult industrial environments, although it also has applications for elderly and disabled people too. Meanwhile, the EveR2 is a fembot that’s capable of looking angry OR bored, and sings Korean songs in lilting robot tones. Can robot tones be lilting? Anyway, EveR2 wins.
More info: HUBO FX-1EveR2-Muse

And just in case you missed ’em, here’s the other 16 first-round ties from the other day:

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iRobot Aquabot v Miuro iPod speaker
I thought the point of pool cleaners was so the lady of the house could have a torrid affair with them while her husband’s away. iRobot’s Aquabot puts a stop to all that (at least, I hope it does), using jets to keep things spiffing. Meanwhile, the Miuro is a robo iPod speaker that trundles round the house after you, pumping out tunes. Miuro wins, on the grounds that more people have iPods than swimming pools.
More info: iRobot AquabotMiuro iPod speaker

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Cockroach-run Robot v Mike the Emotional Robot
It’s humanity’s worst nightmare: cockroaches teaming up with robots to rule in a post-nuclear wasteland. Garnet Hertz’s bot is controlled by a (presumably brainy) cockroach, and is consideably scarier than Sao Paulo bot Mike, who changes colour to indicate if he’s happy, sad or angry. Sorry Mike, but the cockroach-bot wins by an insecty landslide.
More info: Cockroach-botMike the Emotional Robot

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Wine’n’Cheese Bot v iRobot PackBot
We’re so fussy about our food and drink nowadays, it’s no surprise to find someone’s invented a robot that can taste wine and cheese for us, as well as recommend others we might like (hopefully there’s a ‘under £4.99 in Sainsburys please’ option). PackBot might not recognise a fruity bottle of ’83 Blue Nun, but it’s more concerned with serious activities like locating and defusing bluddy great landmines. It’s tempting to take the boozy road, but no, PackBot wins.
More info: Wine’n’Cheese Bot – iRobot Packbot

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CB2 Child Robot v Robo 3 Rideable Robot
CB2 is frankly a bit scary: he’s a child-sized robot developed by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, and has the physical ability of a 1-2 year-old toddler, as well as artificial vocal cords to demand rusks. Meanwhile, Robo 3’s bot is the world’s first rideable robot, and looks like something out of Star Wars. He might give you nightmares, but CB2 wins. Four legs good, two legs (and 200 tactile sensors) better.
More info: CB2 Child RobotRobo 3 Rideable Robot

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Walking Partner Robot v Echo Roboteddy
Nomura’s robotic walker is designed to help people with walking problems get around. It senses stairs, zebra crossings and comes in pink or blue. However, Echo Robot is a cutesy teddy bear that uses Bluetooth to match you up with random strangers in the street. It’s love that makes the world go round (yes, even love brokered by a robotic teddy bear), so Echo wins.
More info: Walking PartnerEcho Roboteddy

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Figla Robot v R100 Personal Robot
Figla is one of the more public-spirited robots in this competition, seeing as how he wanders the streets picking up trash (presumably so he can take it home and make laser guns for the coming robo-revolution). R100, on the other hand, is designed to keeep you company at home, reading your email and even singing to keep your spirits up. But really, what good is that if the streets are full of rubbish? Figla wins.
More info: Figla RobotR100 Personal Robot

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Roboquad v Sax-playing Jazzbot
Roboquad is the latest creation from Wowwee, and is a four-legged spiderbot (okay, half-spiderbot) whose aggression, awareness and activity levels can be tweaked to make him as nasty or nice as you want him to be. By contrast, this Japanese robot is all about the mellow, seeing as he can play a robo-rendition of John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’. If he could do the sax break from the Zutons’ ‘Valerie’ he might’ve won, but Roboquad wins.
More info: RoboquadSax-playing Jazzbot

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Guitarbot v Elvisbot
Forget jazz-playing saxy bots though: this is the REAL clash of the musicbots. Guitarbot is the work of LEMUR, the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots. It plays a mean slide guitar. But when it comes to musical bots, you can’t beat WowWee’s ElvisBot, which was on show at this year’s CES in a pre-production model. ElvisBot wins, because it’s more likely to get you (sorry) all shook up.
More info: GuitarbotElvisBot

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Chaos Robot v Asahi Robocco BeerBot
Another clash of a worthy military-bot with something designed for more boozy pleasures. The Chaos Robot is designed to move silently over unstable ground and rescue soldiers, recon the enemy, or just look frightening. However, even army men would agree that Asahi’s new beerbot is rather marvellous: it stores up to six cans of the cool stuff, and automatically pours them for you. BeerBot wins by a frothy head.
More info: Chaos Robot – Asahi Robocco BeerBot

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Akazawa PLEN v AIST Robotic Hand
A nine-inch robot that roller skates? Even in the 1980s that didn’t seem like a good idea. Nevertheless, PLEN does have his charms, being able to bust a few skatey stunts. Meanwhile, AIST’s robo-hand has been designed to provide as much force as a human hand, say, when throttling someone. Not that robots are just about throttling puny humans, of course. But PLEN wins, if only because he’d be a bigger hit down the rollerdisco.
More info: Akazawa PLENAIST Robotic Hand

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Honda Asimo v Robolobster
What more can I say about Asimo that hasn’t been said already? Honda’s humanoid robot took this year’s CES by storm, showing off his ability to run in circles, kick footballs and walk upstairs without falling over. Next to those skills, a robolobster that scuttles along the seafloor finding toxic waste is… well, a bit off the boil. Asimo wins.
More info: Honda AsimoRobolobster

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R2D2 Mobile Entertainment System v Cute Ball Robot
Another mismatch, sadly. The R2D2 Mobile Entertainment System was another huge hit at this year’s CES show, thanks to its ability to trundle around burbling like the Star Wars character it’s based on, while also projecting DVDs onto the wall. Oh, and its remote control is shaped like the Millennium Falcon. Meanwhile, the Cute Ball Robot is, well, a cute robot. Shaped like a ball. A rollover, as R2D2 wins.
More info: R2D2 Mobile Entertainment SystemCute Ball Robot

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Robosapien RS2 Media v Rong Cheng Beautybot
You can’t argue with Robosapien (unless you’re sitting in one of the enormous militarybots featured above, of course. Then you can be quite lairy with him). WowWee’s bot has taken robotics into the mainstream gadget market in a way that Sony’s Aibo never quite managed. His RS2 Media incarnation certainly more likely to be found in the average household than Chinese beautybot Rong Cheng, although she can dance, greet people, and respond to around a thousand words in the Sichuan dialect. Nevertheless, Robosapien wins.
More info: Robosapien RS2 Media – Rong Cheng Beautybot

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Aldebaran Robotics AL-05 v Net Tansor
French firm Aldebaran Robotics’ AL-05 was shrouded in secrecy for much of its development, thanks to cheeky videos released on the firm’s website showing the bot waving at viewers. He’s still on the shy side, but looks like he could give Asimo a run for his money. Meanwhile, Net Tansor is a robotic webcam that you can have patrolling your home to spot burglars (or just freak out the cat). No contest: the mysterious Al-05 wins.
More info: Aldebaran Robotics AL-05Net Tansor

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Japanese Walking Attack Robot v Ubiko Smoke Detector
This is the first round, so you’d expect a few walkovers. Here’s one of the biggest mismatches. On one side, you’ve got an enormous Japanese ED-209 lookalike that clumps around the streets scaring the bejaysus out of all and sundry. And on the other you’ve got a roving smoke detector robot that grasses illicit fag-smokers up to the authorities. Sorry Ubiko, but the Walking Attack robot wins by several giant paces.
More info: Walking Attack RobotUbiko Smoke Detector

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Anybots v Samsung Mahru 2
Battle of the humanoids here. Anybots claims to be the world’s first ‘dynamically balancing’ robot, complete with compressed air driven joints allowing him to move more, well, dynamically. Facing him is Samsung’s Mahru 2. Whaddya mean you didn’t know Samsung made robots too? It can recognise people using its built-in camera, and greet them in Korean. Followed by a variety of annoying bing-bong noises, if Samsung’s mobile phones are anything to go by. It’s tight, but Anybots wins.
More info: AnybotsSamsung Mahru 2

So, that’s 32 robots through to the second round, which is coming later this week. Watch this space!

Stuart Dredge

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