by Dr. Rob van der Bijl, Amsterdam, Netherlands
May 2008, RVDB
Urban Planning launched a 'playful' research into robotics. Inspired
by Isaac Asimov with his famous Sci-Fi novel 'I Robot'. Our research
has mainly focused on the possibilities of humanoid robots. In the
years that followed, a lot of inspiration was gained in Japan, where
this type of robot was considered to have great future value.
(the period May 2008 – December 2022 so far) is summarized
on this page in three parts. Backgrounds and our own experiences
with the idea of a humanoid robot fill the first part. With the
remaining two parts we will discuss what we think can be done with
namely making art and toys. Some examples of applications in the
field of art are included in part 2. Finally, in the third part,
we look at what we what we ultimately want to do: playing robots.
the future of Isaac Asimov car parking wouldn't resemble anything
from nowadays automatic parking systems such as developed by Toyota
Motor Corporation. In stead they would look like classic 1950s American
car parks, however served by human-like Robot-Attendants. Moreover,
in the world of Asimov the ambiguity of natural language would causes
fundamental misunderstandings between humans and robots.
May 2022: During a visit to a fair in Tokyo, we met the company ZMP and their 'Robots of Everything'. Indeed, less humanoid, but the eyes of the robot cars still try to endear us. Meanwhile in Japan, work on human robots continues persistently. See this overview by the Wall Street Journal.
October 2018: In Japan it is often not easy to distinguish between humans and animals, or between dolls and robots, or between humanoids and animaloids. Even the grabber is creating confusion. Is this a simple device or a hanging robot, or robot crane? Our investigation continues …
This is not
September 2014: This is not a robot. It’s a simple, toy-like table-top object. Still it mirrors robot culture, it alludes to our techno-oriented culture, full of believes in engaged robotics and blessed technology. Will robots ever dream? A valid question or not. Will this clock-robot ever dream of electric sheep, or hairy cats? Watch our video from the French department of our Robotics Lab.
have a Soul!
2013: Famous Japanese 'Robo Prof' Hiroshi Ishiguro attempts
to mimic shape, expression, motion, and behavior of human beings.
His robots have a 'soul'. They act as closely as possible to human
2010: RVDB was received in the intimate exhibition space of Robosquare,
Fukuoka, Japan. And introduced to AIBO, the robotic pet of Sony,
still performing here, though production ceased in 2006. However,
again introduced when the fourth generation model was launched in
2018. And yes, still we do love the mass-marketed AIBO. See
our little movie 'Aibo Dancing' made at Robosquare.
PARO is a Mental Commitment Robot, shaped as a seal. Unlike industrial robots, "Mental Commitment Robots" are developed to interact with human beings and to make them feel emotional attached to the robots. These robots trigger more subjective considerations, evoking mental impressions such as 'cuteness'.
"All Is Full of Love" is a song by Björk, from her album Homogenic. The video is a nice example of entertainment which alludes to the existence of human like robots - robot ladies actually as the video at YouTube proves.
ago Brian Mock explained that he was ‘intrigued by the challenge
of creating something unique, fun, and inherently curious’.
We particularly were impressed by his robot figure (the Eureka Robot)
which we encountered by coincidence during a walk in the city of
Brain applies unusual found objects and everyday items into his sculptures.
Meanwhile his work has developed impressively – please, visit
his website full of ‘fine art created from 100% reclaimed materials’.
RoboThespian is a life-sized humanoid exhibition exhibit, a robot actor whose primary function is theatrical performance. RoboThespian was created to educate, communicate, interact and entertain. See more at Engineered Arts.
on Orange Beach - photo by Rob van der Bijl, October 9, 2011.
Robodock (1998-2012) was the pre-eminent art and technology festival of the Netherlands, with its awe-inspiring kinetic sculptures, pyro-installations, absurdist acts, robots, live-music and DJs.
3 - Toys
There are many collections around the world. Like the one we checked at Industrion. More on this subject at the Osaka Tin Toy Institute.
We enjoyed reading this book about sex robots that push the potentially humanoid nature of robots to the limit. Perhaps Levy is right that eventually (he once mentioned the year 2050) these types of sex toys will have become routinely accepted by the public. That does not alter the fact that it can still be problematic to view prostitution as a case model of sexual relationships.
of our references:
Floortje Daemen & Rinie van Est; Overal robots: automatisering
van de liefde tot de dood. Boom/Lemma, 2012.
More tin robot toys
Image Yonezawa compilation by Rob van der Bijl.
We like the vintage tin robot toys, for instance the Robby from Yonezawa. Is this robot a man or a machine? Dome Head Robby Robot is a reproduction of the famous Japanese original (like our Robby we used in the experiments presented below). With his cute human face and sparking neck he appears to be having a good day on an alien planet. We love to wind him up and then like watching his sparkling lights and sounds as he moves his feet and walks ahead. He has an on/off switch at his red and yellow front panel. His two brothers Cone Head and Dome Head share the same body and silver wrench-arms.
Our Robby ProjectAll Robby photos by Rob van der Bijl.
2008 RVDB launched the ROBBY Project which served as the prologue
of our investigation into the use of humanoid robots.
by the Sun'
was our very first experiment, exposing ROBBY to natural sunlight. Due
to this light the robot's forms and articulations were brightly visualized.
We still love this experiment that offered us fun and moreover the insight
that the human form analogy is powerful and expressive.
Then the fifth and
final experiment 'Walking Ways' that was
subjected to measurements and analysis of ROBBY's basic quality, namely
the ability to walk. A set of small wheels in the bottom side of each
of ROBBY's feet allows the robot to walk. When the rotation of the axe
within the on board electric motor is mechanically transferred to the
'joints' of both legs it really happens. Yes! ROBBY is walking. As his
legs are moving forwards and backwards the wheels in both feeds start
rolling and ROBBY is walking, and not riding as sometimes has been suggested.
The walking capabilities are primarily linked to the movement of the
propulsed legs and not the wheels as such.
Epiloque - in Broadway, the famous mall of Nakano (Tokyo) we spotted an original of ROBBY (April, 2009). Built in 1950 and now for sale for 150.000 yen. ROBBY was and still is a special robot indeed!
(C) Rob van der Bijl (RVDB's Robotics Lab), Amsterdam NETHERLANDS, May 2008 - February 2023