Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Japan! Culture + Hyperculture

I think I may have posted on this before, but there's a whole mess of cool Japanese stuff at the Kennedy Center right now. Life-like robots that answer questions, free-to-read manga, art exhibits, and free Millennium Stage performances every night. This is in addition to the stuff you have to pay for which I sadly have not the time+money for (Not time or money, I just don't have a time where one of the paid productions would be worth the money). I managed to finally get down there today (Baka late shifts, baka ice storm, baka social obligations, bakabakabaka!) and saw Toyota and Honda's robots. Toyota's played a trumpet and Honda's was very mobile. Based on the presentations, I'm going to say it won't be too long before we start seeing robots like this one more often:

I believe this is a tour guide bot. The Toyota one I saw you can see videos of here and yes its actually playing the trumpet. It moves air through itself and through a mouth opening that functions like human lips. As amazing as it is though, when I asked the presenter off to the side how long its battery life was the, she paused for a moment and looked to the video man who said "That information is confidential at this time." Now, call me a pessimist, but to me that says "We can't get this thing to last much longer than that 10 minute demo you just saw."

The Honda one you've probably seen before. Asimo commercial anyone? I was more impressed by this one, they said it has like 34 gyroscopic servos constantly adjusting and compensating for balance and it had a huge battery back pack (By the way, this demo was longer. Bigger back pack, longer demo, I'm seeing a connection). Also, this one could "run" (4 MPH), which the demonstrator and any robot fanatics in the audience I'm sure found ten times more amazing a feat than myself, who found it pretty cool. OH, and a thought I had. They said that Asimo stood for something, but I'm guessing they gave it a name one letter off from Asimov and then came up with words to fit it later. Actually, I think I remember hearing that it was named after Isaac Asimov a long time ago, but hadn't thought about it until after the presentation. As long as they don't give it a gun we'll be fine, though even then we'll probably be fine because all we have to do is knock it over and its done. (Its an older video, like a year ago so they've improved since then. But still, no has anything to worry about robots taking over the world....yet)

Oh, and the Millennium Stage performance was interesting. It was Takagi Masakatsu who blends interesting altered video with music into something rather unique (Or I haven't seen anything like it before). This is one of the ones I saw. Some of his pieces were kind of disturbing, and one I really started feeling bored with after a while, but mostly they were interesting, amazing, or beautiful.

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