Tech Digest's Robot World Cup: Round Three

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Since I started this World Cup, Japanese scientists have probably invented about 76 new bots even more deadly / cool / ridiculous than the ones featured here. Ah well. No late entries or byes are permitted, even if someone creates a British TennisBot capable of winning Wimbledon. Which is frankly unlikely.

Anyway, it’s round three of Tech Digest’s Robot World Cup, and we’re down to 16 of the planet’s coolest robots, scrapping it out to be declared top bot. Some big names are still in the draw too, including Honda’s Asimo, WowWee’s Robosapien RS Media, and iRobot’s Packbot.

Who’ll make it into the quarter finals? Read on to find out (or, if you’re just joining us, check out Round One and Round Two).

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AAC-AI Cookingrobot v Tyco N.S.E.C.T
Celebrity Masterchef? Celebrity Schmasterchef! What I want to see on TV is Robot Masterchef, in which an array of cybernoids (in chef hats) compete to whip up the best prawn moussaka. Is that a dish? Anyway, the AAC-AI Cookingrobot would have a fighting chance, as long as it’s on its home turf of oriental cuisine, and was allowed its Robowaiter chum along to help out. Tyco’s N.S.E.C.T doesn’t cook, although with eight limbs, he’d be ace at omelette-making. Instead, he’s a toy spiderbot, who fires missiles out of his legs. N.S.E.C.T wins, because the spidergun is mightier than the toasting fork.
More info: AAC-AI CookingrobotTyco N.S.E.C.T

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KornTech Rogun v WiiGoBot
Rumour has it that KornTech’s Rogun costs a million dollars to buy. Which given that it’s designed as a companionbot for kids, is only going to appeal to ultra-rich parents who really wanna spoil their children. Paris Hilton probably has three. Anyway, Rogun stands a metre high, and has a seven-inch screen in his tummy which can be used to watch TV or make video calls. That said, many kids would rather have a WiiGoBot, which is a souped-up Lego Mindstorms bot that can bowl a perfect game on Wii Sports Bowling. It’s no good for cheating though – you couldn’t hide it behind the sofa while pretending to bowl yourself. Rogun wins, because cheating’s bad, Kids.
More info: KornTech RogunWiiGoBot

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iRobiQ v Spyke
Next up is a clash of two robots who were on adjacent stands at the CES show this year, where we caught up with them. It’s a wonder they didn’t start a robowar then, reducing buildings to charred ash in their wake. Or something. Actually, iRobiQ is too friendly for such violence – he’s a home helperbot who serves up news, weather and recipes, while doubling as a karaoke machine and English teacher. Meanwhile, Spyke is Meccano’s new spybot, capable of trundling round your home recording whatever’s happening using his webcam and microphone, before streaming it to you remotely via Wi-Fi. iRobiQ wins – robots should help your family, not let you spy on them…
More info: iRobiQSpyke

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Kansei Facial Robot v Robopanda
Robots don’t tend to have the most expressive faces, it’s fair to say. Mainly because it’d be much harder to subject humanity to your unbending oppression if you were doing it with ironically raised eyebrows, or while winking. Still, Kansei aims to change that – he’s a Japanese robot capable of 36 different expressions in response to specific words (‘Bomb’ is the example in the photo). Meanwhile, Robopanda was shown off at CES, and is another child-friendly robot who can read bedtime stories to your nippers – who’d doubtless be more impressed if it could play PS2 games with them. It’s cute, but the gurning Kansei wins.
More info: KanseiRobopanda

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Miuro iPod Speaker v iRobot Packbot
Remember all those rumours about the new Transformers movie, and how there’d be a robot that turns into an iPod? I’m not sure if they ever came to anything. But Miuro is the next best thing: a robotic iPod speaker that follows you around, playing tunes wherever you are in the house. Presumably you can order it outside in disgrace if it plays any Kooks tracks too. Meanwhile, the only sound accompanying Packbot about its work is the soft fizzle of mines being defused (or if he’s unlucky, the odd KABOOM). iRobot’s feisty bot is essential in clearing up minefields, so despite Miuro’s charms, Packbot wins.
More info:Miuro iPod SpeakeriRobot Packbot

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Echo Roboteddy v Roboquad
You’d be surprised at how many scientists are rocking the robot / teddy crossover trend. Maybe it’s because giving a bot a cuddly exterior makes it more acceptable to humans. Anyway, Echo is a teddy who you carry around with you, and who detects other people with similar interests. Compared to that, Roboquad is a more traditional robot who wouldn’t look out of place scampering along a corridor in the film Alien. You can tweak his aggression levels to determine just how facehugging he is. Roboquad wins – would you want to hook up with someone who carries a teddy bear around with them in public?
More info: Echo RoboteddyRoboquad

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Asahi BeerBot v Honda Asimo
It was only a matter of time before some bright spark realised that the quickest and most effective way robots can bring joy to mankind is by sparing them the effort required to get trolleyed. Asahi’s BeerBot keeps beers cool AND pours them. About the only thing Honda’s Asimo doesn’t do is glug back real ale, but he can do many other manly things, such as play football, lurch up stairs, and run around in circles. But when it comes down to it, Asimo wins, because Honda’s ultimate aim is to make him a true home help. Which will probably also involve pouring beer.
More info: Asahi Robocco BeerBot – Honda Asimo

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Robosapien RS Media v Anybots
While Asimo is at the more high-minded end of the robotics industry, WowWee’s Robosapien bots have focused much more on the entertainment side of things. Robosapien RS Media was the beefed-up generation of its Robosapien bot, with an LCD display, a memory card slot, and a head-mounted video camera. Meanwhile, Anybots looks a bit unfinished, but that’s because all the effort has gone into its compressed air-driven joints, which let him run over uneven ground dynamically balancing as he goes. Robosapien wins though – I’d like to see Anybots cope with the dreadful state of British pavements…
More info: Robosapien RS2 MediaAnybots

So, phew, that’s the third round over, with eight robots progressing into the quarter finals. Stand by for those tomorrow…

PREVIOUS ROUNDS
Robot World Cup: Round One
Robot World Cup: Round Two

Stuart Dredge