DIY robots: How to build your own lean, mean fighting machine

August 26th, 2010 by Felicity Hughes

Aug. 29 sees the 22nd All Japan Robot Sumo Tournament kicking off with the Tohoku playoffs in Akita.  The tournament is an opportunity for Japan’s amateur robot enthusiasts to show off their skills, as their homemade robots do battle within the confines of a 124 cm diameter ring. With this in mind, we thought we’d take the opportunity to take a look at what kind of robots are being constructed by hobbyists these days.

Robot building is a popular activity in Japan, especially among university students studying science-related subjects, and there are a wide range of kits available for the hobbyist. The mecca for these budding robot scientists is Tsukumo Robot Kingdom in Akihabara, which stocks a wide range of robots construction kits from the ridiculously simple to the brain fryingly complex. A visit to the store is pretty exciting as you can usually get to check robots out in action on a little stage set up for them to roam free upon.

Right now in Tsukumo Robot Kingdom, these are the top five best-selling robots, according to Nikkei Trendy:

1) KHR-3HV from Kondo Kagaku, ¥149,800. The KHR-3HV was released on the market last summer and wowed fans with its capacity to emulate human movements: It walks, somersaults, climbs steps and does back flips. This bipedal bot stands 401  mm tall and is extremely flexible with 17 joint motors (one for the head, six for the arms and 10 for the feet); those who are willing to get even more technical, can soup him up by adding an extra five joint motors.

2) Robovie-nano from Vstone, ¥63,000. Standing 230 mm tall and weighing in at 575 grams, this radio-remote controlled bi-pedal robot is competitively priced compared to the KHR-3HV but limber all the same, with 15 joint motors, including hands that can grip.

3) Robot Arm MR-999 from Elekit, ¥4,980. Aimed at beginner hobbyists who want to get down to the nuts and bolts of how things work, the Robot Arm is 360mm in length with five joint motors. You can get it to grip and pick up stuff by operating it with the radio remote controller.

4) Line Trace Car from Elekit, ¥1,800. Again, for beginners, this 120 x 170mm robot does what it says on the tin and little else: i.e. follows a black line on white paper.

5) Robot Designer RDS-X01U Platform Plus USB from Robotech Ltd, ¥12,915. For the expert, this simple bare-bones robot (basically just a sensor on wheels) can be the foundation to the mecha-killing machine of your dreams. You basically increase the robots functionality by buying extra parts.

While robots Nos. 1 through 4 are good for honing your skills, entrants to the sumo tournament will be looking at creating their own cyborg Asashoryu from scratch, using something that gives them more creative freedom, like No. 5.

If you want to see the bots in action, here’s the list of dates and venues for the nationwide tournament.

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