Tech Digest's Robot World Cup: Semi-Final



No, we hadn’t forgotten about it. We were just giving the final bots in our Robot World Cup a few weeks to rest their bones (well, mechanical joints) before rejoining battle. And what a battle it is.

We’re at the semi-final stage, which means the last four robots in the competition. Three of ’em are humanoid: Honda’s Asimo, WowWee’s Robosapien RS Media, and KornTech’s Rogun. The quartet is completed by iRobot’s military Packbot, which swaps legs for tank treads.

It’s a head-to-head competition, with two places in the final at stake. Read on to find out which robots are winners, and which are sinners. Well, losing semi-finalists, anyway.


Honda Asimo v iRobot Packbot

Asimo has certainly made a splash in recent years, thanks to his starring appearances in a series of Honda TV ads. His fame is deserved though, for Asimo is one of the most advanced humanoid robots ever seen outside science fiction. He can walk, run, trot upstairs and downstairs, kick footballs AND wow trade-show crowds with his dry-witted wisecracks. What’s more, Honda reckons there’ll be an Asimo in every household at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, Packbot is equally important to the future of humankind, albeit well away from the domestic arena. He’s designed to be used by the military for “explosive ordnance disposal” (that’s mine-clearing to you and me). He runs on tank treads, and has a robo-arm that can reach up to two metres away when deciding whether to cut the red or green wire (note, my knowledge of bomb disposal comes entirely from rubbish 80s cop shows).

Asimo wins. As laudable as Packbot is – especially since he was recently upgraded with a Taser gun – Honda’s robot provides the more exciting glimpse of how humans and robots could live together in the near(ish) future. And besides, I’m short of a player on my five-a-side team…


Robosapien RS Media v KornTech Rogun

If Asimo has taken robotics into the mainstream with his TV ads, then Robosapien has been leading a parallel invasion into our living rooms by dint of being the cheapest humanoid robot worthy of the name (i.e. not just a robot-shaped toy). He’s got a 320×160 LCD screen to show you what his head-mounted camera is seeing, can display images and play MPEG movies, and has a bunch of movements that can be fully edited by his owner.

Meanwhile, Rogun is yet another humanoid robot, except he’s a child-friendly one standing one metre high, and able to recognise the faces of his owners using his built-in cameras and face-tracking tools. He can also pace around your house looking for burglars, and alert you (although to be honest, clever burglars will realise that Rogun is the most valuable thing in the house and run off with him). Meanwhile, he’s also perfect for entertainment, thanks to his seven-inch LCD screen and Wi-Fi for streaming video, VoIP telephony and web surfing.

Rogun wins. This was a really hard decision, as for thousands of people, Robosapien is the first bot they’ve had living in their homes. But Rogun’s wider connected features, and the way he combines entertainment with security functions, sends him through to the final to face Asimo.

So there we have it. Asimo v Rogun in the final, which’ll be posted later this week on Tech Digest. In the meantime, check out the previous rounds via the links below.

Quarter Final
Round Three
Round Two
Round One

Stuart Dredge
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