May 10

Japan 2! More pics and Lab Work

I know.. this update is wayyy overdue … I’ll try to make it a good one.
So my research here in Japan (the Osuka-Ishikawa Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University) is on passive dynamic locomotion, and more specifically with what is being called the Phase Transition Phenomenon. Although it may seem like blasphemy, these are robots that are generally without the sensors/actuators/other electronics that are normally standard (as fate would have it, this is a Mechanical Engineering lab). However this is actually what makes passive dynamic locomotion pretty damn cool.  Here is a video that helped to inspire much of this research:


it is of a cat exhibiting three different gait patterns as a treadmill is run at different speeds. The amazing thing is that the cat is decerebrate, leading the big names in the field to believe the entire nonlinear control-feedback mechanism is implicit in the mechanical design. A long term goal of this laboratory is to further develop the control law for these passive dynamic walking/running devices, which could have a pretty big impact on the future of pedal robotics. The idea is that, for both bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion, rigid control of all the actuators is a pretty large computational (as well as efficiency) burden, which , in an underactuated model that takes advantage of carefully designed passive dynamics, can be offloaded to the mechanical structure. The new term I learned for this is Morphological Computation and the idea that a system can be, in a sense, “programmed” to handle complex nonlinear tasks through its mechanical design totally makes up [at least in terms of coolness factor] for the lack of electronics 🙂   Also, Here is a video from a different laboratory which has collaborated on some of this research:


My task will be to run simulations (and possibly machine physical models depending on how much I can get done in a semester) to further explore how passive robots can exhibit this phenomenon.
My Sempai (older student labmates) are an incredibly warm, friendly, and tight-knit bunch, and enthusiastic to teach me about Japan as well as learn about the US. Grad students are committed to their lab relationship almost more like family and all-lab outings/events are a regular occurrence- As I am writing this I just realized I still have yet to take a picture with them- Ill have to get on that ASAP!
Here are some pictures from around the lab, Ill try to be brief with the descriptions:


Basic PDW quadruped with locking spine and adjustable leg length


a few more passive and quazi-passive dynamic walkers


One of a series of “rescue robots” in the lab. This one is intended to retrieve an injured person from a hazardous area.

two more rescue robots, MOIRA and MOIRA II, which would (in theory) navigate through rubble after an earthquake or other disaster to locate survivors

another rescue bot which could remove large pieces or ruble and debris more carefully than standard excavation equipment

although not strictly a rescue robot, this critter is capable of traveling through pipes of variable diameter. Its purpose is to locate a gas leak without [potentially] having to tear up a whole neighborhood.


a pretty neat little omiyage I scored while helping clean out one of the other labs- the device (invented by one of the professors here) allows a robot to capture a 360 degree view of its environment (and thus self localize)using only one camera
There are also some awesomely cool clubs around campus; Below are pictures of the work in progress formula racer (OFRAC) and birdman glider.

I’ll be going back this weekend to help fab the main cowling – although I don’t really have the time, I’m going to try to become a regular member – wayy to cool an opportunity to pass up


As some may know, I turned 21 here this week! Funny thing is , the drinking age here is 20- (well really as soon as you can reach the buttons on a vending machine..) so its not nearly as big of a deal. I’ll have to put celebrations of lawful belligerence on hold. Not that the Japanese don’t like to drink- oh they like to get their glow on – but more on that another time (maybe).
Anyway, it just so happened that the Japan Open Robot Soccer tournament was held from May 2-4

As [if its not blatantly obvious] im a bit of an otaku,so this seemed like an ideal way to spend the day. Oh and it was. I’ll let the pictures do the talking:




The Osaka-U robocup team lab a few days before the event


‘bots being demonstrated at the entrance- one even danced like MJ!









A few of the different humanoid competitions

medium sized non-humanoid class

Mixed Reality class – miniature robots compete on the virtual field shown(!!)

The hosting organization has set a goal of beating the best human players and winning the world cup with a robot team by 2050. And, to put it nicely, Robovie still has a quite a ways to go before bumping Beckham from the podium… However the crowd seemed to acknowledge that coordinated autonomous humanoid soccer is anything but trivial. The atmosphere was incredibly supportive, enthusiastic , and excited to witness a demonstration of a still infant technology. A cool event indeed.
After this, one of my lab mates (who I had gone with) recommended I see Nipponbashi, and boy was I grateful for that recommendation. Suffice to say, this is my new favorite place on the planet.
Nipponbashi , sometimes pronounced NiiPWN-BASH, or Den Den Town – which most nearly translates to Electronics Electronics Town, is a sort of wonderland which takes scores of stores for new/used/bargan electronics, electronic hobby, hardware, toys and menga, 24h internet/gaming/comic cafes (with free coffee and icecream on a pay by the hour basis), and girls in cosplay and densely crams them all into an inner city section directly adjacent to the one of the [in]famous nightlife districts.
My kind of town.

It was hard to get a good picture with the staircase in the way, but this reads “DASA (with the N crossed out and replaced with a ‘D’) Device and Silicon ware Agency” – Like a big Sparkfun outlet!


“I want you to use the force you’ve gathered with in your grasp for the world from now on” … sexy.



I know, I know, everybody and their kid sister thinks that their touristy point&shoot sightseeing pics are works of art – so I’ll try not pollute the interweb too much; but here are some sights and other bits of randomness that I think are actually worth sharing:











at these temples, you can pay a couple bucks for an old lady to read your fortune – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

retaliation gift in to say “thanks” for the gifts i brought from California. Now the ball is in my court. apparently thankyouforthe-thankyouforthe-thankyou gifts are not uncommon here



more enticing?






More Umeda


Making friends in Namba

Language barrier

I hope they’re not always crusty and filled with yellow cream



Nagisa Ongakusai 2010 – Japanese Ravebot



More Nagisa Ongakusai

more wtf?




Apparently Robot dogs do this too..

Do you have survive?

“Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is to change it”
Sooo badass.

They’ve even taken our idea of consumerism to a whole new level!


r/w_ blog : 05-23-2024
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