Robots: they haven’t taken over the world yet, but they’re already capable of pouring us beer and controlling our home entertainment. If that’s not a crafty strategy for leaving us sofa-bound while they stage a cyber-coup at some point in the future, I don’t know what is.
In the meantime, it’s time for round two of Tech Digest’s Robot World Cup – an entirely spurious competition in which we pit the planet’s best robots head-to-head in a knockout competition to reveal who’s top bot, and who’s heading for the scrap heap.
The first round was last week, so without further ado, let’s see which robots are going to storm into the last 16.
AAC-AI Cookingrobot v Anty the Huggy Robot
Delia Smith… Jamie Oliver… Those Two Beardy Biker Blokes… Your human chefs will take one hell of a beating once the robots get into the kitchen. It’s happening already, with the Cookingrobot’s ability to rustle up sophisticated oriental cuisine in a jiffy. By contrast, Anty can’t cook, but he makes up for it with the quality of his cuddles. No self-respecting modern woman would take this argument from her partner, so I don’t see why we should accept it from a robot. Cookingrobot wins.
More info: Cookingrobot – Anty the Huggy Robot
Robot Beggar v Tyco N.S.E.C.T
People might be nicer to beggars if they were slightly scared that a refusal to spare a few pennies might end in messy robot-rage-related violence. NYU’s RoboBeggar lurks on street corners asking for cash, like a less morally-grounded parking machine. But can you trust him not to spend the money on WD-40? Meanwhile, Tyco’s N.S.E.C.T is an eight-legged spiderbot that fires missiles at people in mid-wiggle. He also has proper full-stops in his name, which signifies robo-royalty. N.S.E.C.T wins.
More info: RoboBeggar – Tyco N.S.E.C.T
Sega Dream Cat v KornTech Rogun
Sony’s AIBO robot dog never made it to the massmarket, although at least unwanted ones are being sold for thousands on eBay, rather than dumped on motorways in sacks. Sega’s Dream Cat has five sensors and likes a stroke, but is this enough to make him succeed where AIBO failed? KornTech’s Rogun is cuter AND more useful to be honest, with a seven-inch chest screen for TV or even video calls. Rogun wins.
More info: Sega Dream Cat – KornTech Rogun
WiiGoBot v Homersapien
Two robots to delight the armchair crowd, here. The WiiGoBot is a robot created with one purpose only: to bowl the perfect game of Wii Sports Bowling, suffering neither from achy arm syndrome, or the distractions of mates shouting just as you let fly with your Wiimote. Meanwhile, Homersapien has 67 functions, none of which involve bowling balls or Nintendo consoles. Homer will capitalise on Simpsons fever for the upcoming movie, but WiiGoBot wins for his sporty skills.
More info: WiiGoBot – Homersapien
iRobiQ v Tamanoi Vinegar Robot
iRobiQ must be the most helpful robot ever invented. He’s a pleasant little droid who’s happy to display recipes, sing karaoke, teach English to your kids (admittedly not as big a selling point here in the UK as in Japan), and protect your home from burglars. He’s certainly got a varied range of interests, which is more than can be said for the Tamanoi Robot, which was designed for one reason: to talk vinegar trivia. Let’s face it, you’d rather be stuck next to iRobiQ at a party, so iRobiQ wins.
More info: iRobiQ – Tamanoi Vinegar Robot
Spyke v iRobot Create
What is it with robots and spying? Can’t we go back to the old days of just hiring a wisetalking guy in a dirty mac to tell us if our loved ones are up to no good? Spyke is the latest spybot, using Wi-Fi and a built-in mic and video camera to stream live footage of your house to you, wherever you are. iRobot Create doesn’t spy yet, but it could do – it’s actually a robot development platform which can be customised to do just about anything – at CES this year, it was fetching beer from the fridge and using hamster brains to navigate. Flexible as it is, Spyke wins for sheer sneakiness.
More info: Spyke – iRobot Create
Reborg-Q Security Bot v Kansei Facial Robot
You wouldn’t mess with a robot called Reborg-Q, would you? Well, not if you valued your pulpy humanoid brain. He’s a big security bot designed to patrol around commercial premises, and feed live footage back to his controllers. Sadly he doesn’t (yet) come with a laser gun to dispense impromptu justice on his own initiative. Meanwhile, Kansei has 36 different facial expressions which it pulls when fed specific words. The next barrier for robots is better emotional interaction with humans, and on the grounds that Kansei would be more suited to simpering when ordered to make a cuppa, Kansei wins.
More info: Reborg-Q – Kansei
Robopanda v EveR2-Muse
Why create a robot panda? Presumably because real pandas are getting a bit thin on the ground – perhaps the bot versions are more inclined to a spot of hanky-panky. Anyway, WowWee’s Robopanda wouldn’t dream of anything of the sort, preferring to read bedtime stories to children. The EveR2 is a fembot, meanwhile, but don’t worry – android sex isn’t on the cards here either. At least, I don’t think it is. Instead, she sings Korean ditties and runs through a range of facial emotions. Robopanda wins, innit cute? Now can someone make a polar bear version…
More info: Robopanda – EveR2-Muse
Miuro iPod Speaker v Cockroach-run Robot
Imagine if Apple made a robot? The iRobot would cost a bomb, look marvellous, and would terminate your PC on sight. Miuro won’t do that, but it does act as a robo-dock for your iPod, using its sensors to follow you round the house playing tunes. Even better, it’s the right shape to be kicked out of the door when you tire of them. Meanwhile, Garnet Hertz’s robot is controlled by the brain of a cockroach, which presumably means when you boot it up, it runs straight to the bath and lies kicking its legs in the air. Miuro wins: roaches must be stopped.
More info: Miuro iPod Speaker – CockroachBot
iRobot Packbot v CB2 Child Robot
If you needed proof that the human race deserves to be eliminated by an invasion of killer robots, how about landmines? The fact that we invented them surely leaves us no grounds for appeal. Still, at least humanity also invented the Packbot, which trundles around locating and defusing landmines. Meanwhile, CB2 is a frankly-unsettling childbot developed in Japan who has the physical ability of a 1-2 year-old toddler. He wouldn’t be much use in a warzone, mind, so Packbot wins.
More info: iRobot Packbot – CB2 Child Robot
Echo Roboteddy v Figla Robot
Noticed any patterns yet? Roboticists are devoting more energy to creating robots designed to interact with kids, who are more open to The Future being cybernetic. Echo is a cute teddy who uses Bluetooth to find likeminded people in the street (actually, maybe not so good for kids). Meanwhile, Figla is a litter-picking robot designed to keep the streets clean and tidy – and thus better for people seeking companions via the medium of robot teddybears. Echo wins: every singleton should have one.
More info: Echo Roboteddy – Figla
Roboquad v Elvisbot
Another WowWee derby – the company is turning out some of the most innovative entbots around right now. Roboquad is about to go on sale, and is a four-legged bot whose aggression, awareness and activity levels can be tweaked to suit your tastes (i.e. how much you want him to terrorise your cat). Meanwhile, the Elvis bot was unveiled at CES this year, and sings the songs of The King in a suitably robo stylee. Ultimately, it’s just Billy Bass 2.0 though, so Roboquad wins.
More info: Roboquad – ElvisBot
Asahi Robocco BeerBot v Akazawa PLEN
Beer and robots is the ultimate combination, when you think about. Not as in them drinking it – that’s just trouble – but as in bots serving up cool beer to us humans. And that’s what Asahi’s BeerBot does, without expecting a tip or giving any backchat. Meanwhile, Akazawa’s PLEN robot is more at home on top of the bar, skating around like… well, like a pint-sized robot on skates. Fun to watch when you’re drunk, but you’ll need the BeerBot to get pished in the first place, so BeerBot wins.
More info: Asahi Robocco BeerBot – Akazawa PLEN
Honda Asimo v R2D2 Entertainment System
Oh bugger. If I wasn’t an honest man, I would’ve rigged this World Cup to ensure these two bots didn’t meet until the final. But because I’m
stupid scrupulously fair, they meet in the second round. Asimo is the world’s most high-profile humanoid robot, spending his time running, playing football, and wowing technology trade shows with his dry wisecracks. Meanwhile, the R2D2 Entertainment System is a proper Star Wars droid that can project DVDs onto the wall, and comes with a remote control shaped like the Millennium Falcon. Marvellous, but Asimo wins. Just. I’m putting a seeding system in place next year…
More info: Honda Asimo – R2D2 Entertainment System
Robosapien RS2 Media v Aldebaran Robotics AL-05
Asimo might be the mutt’s nuts when it comes to robotics, but you can’t buy one yet. Robosapien’s various incarnations have been at the forefront of putting robots into living rooms around the world, and this RS2 Media version added multimedia wizardry to his standard moves. Meanwhile, Aldebaran’s AL-05 is a wannabe Asimo-beater, but he’s been so shy in terms of public exposure, it’s hard to be sure how he stacks up. One for the future, certainly, but for now Robosapien wins.
More info: Robosapien RS2 Media – Aldebaran Robotics AL-05
Japanese Walking Attack Robot v Anybots
For robopurists (anyone who likes their bots to be beefy killing machines, in other words), this Japanese robot is truly dribbleworthy. It’s clearly taken inspiration from ED-209 in Robocop, and is ideal for stomping all over Volkswagen Polos. Or, indeed, any car. Anybots is far more delicate, being the world’s first dynamically-balancing robot. I think that means he can stay on his feet even after a big drinking session with Asahi’s BeerBot. Anybots wins, because Robocop was a rubbish movie anyway.
More info: Japanese Walking Attack Robot – Anybots
And there you have it: 16 robots are through to the third round, which takes place tomorrow. By Friday, we’ll have a winner!
Robot World Cup – Round One