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Home > Tech Reiews > Tech Bulletin Last Updated: 15:25 03/09/2007
Tech Bulletin #7: September 2, 2002

GETI/GLOCOM Platform Joint Seminar

Accelerating the Development of the Consumer Robot Industry in Japan

Summary by GETI Staff

Date: August 27, 2002
Place: GLOCOM; 6-15-12 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Speaker: Mr. Hiroshi Kaminaga and Ms. Nobuko Imanishi (ZMP, Inc.)
Topic: Accelerating the Development of the Consumer Robot Industry in Japan

ZMP INC. of Tokyo is a start-up company which is dedicated to the commercialization of humanoid robots based on the research results of the KITANO Symbiotic Systems project supported by the Japan Science and Technology Corporation under its ERATO (Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology) Program. Dr. Hiroaki Kitano, the KITANO project leader and a senior researcher of Sony Computer Science Laboratories Inc., made available the internal design information regarding PINO. PINO is the humanoid robot developed as a platform to be used for humanoid robot research. Technical information on PINO has been made available over the Internet under the GNU GPL license and the GNU Free Document license in an effort to help robot experts and non-experts to advance research and development of such robots. (Note: The external design of PINO has been registered and ZMP owns the design right.) As of July 2002, thousands of researchers and engineers from 68 countries and regions around the world have registered for access to the technical information. Established in January 2001, ZMP is the world's first start-up venture company specializing in the humanoid robot business and works closely with the KITANO project members.

According to Ms. Nobuko Imanishi, Manager of the Robot Technology (RT) Consulting & Application Division at ZMP, the company provides RT solutions through three business units. The RT Consulting & Application Division exhibits and demonstrates the PINO robot for public relations exposure and educational purposes. ZMP has recently set up a robot educational consortium with three other Japanese firms in an attempt to broaden the application and use of humanoid for science and technology education. ZMP's RT Platform & Module Division manufactures PINO in cooperation with Roland DG Co. The division is developing a few new robots, including a new home robot based on a special "morph" technology that incorporates even more advanced functionality and the "SensorBot" disaster rescue support and security robot. The morph robot is 34cm high and weighs 2kg. In addition, the Platform & Module division supplies modules and components such as CPU modules, sensors and actuators to robot developers. The Character & Technology License Division licenses not only technology but also the PINO design to toy manufacturers, printing companies, and even to the media. For instance, PINO appeared in the promotional video "Can you keep a secret?" featuring Hikaru Utada, a noted pop musician. ZMP, which achieved revenues of 58 million yen during its first year of operation (2001), aims to achieve 2002 and 2003 sales of 126 million yen and 560 million yen respectively, and has an aggressive plan to expand sales to 2.1 billion yen in 2004. Ms. Imanishi was quoted as saying that the Japanese robot market reached 600 billion yen or 950,000 units in 2000 and that the market is expected to grow to 1 trillion yen or 1.7 million units by 2010.

Mr. Hiroshi Kaminaga, Manager of the RT Platform & Module Division, gave a briefing on the basics of Gait Planning Theory, i.e. how PINO is designed to walk dynamically with its two legs. The company name ZMP is an acronym for "Zero Moment Point," a point on the floor that is determined by the gravitational force and the inertial force of the walking robot. If the Zero Moment Point remains within the area touched by the foot of a hind leg, a bipedal walking robot stays upright without falling down. The Zero Moment Point can be controlled by controlling the inertial force (because the gravitational force remains constant). The trajectory of the Zero Moment Point can be controlled by the angular trajectory of each of the joints. PINO, which is 70cm high and weighs 4.5kg, has 26 joints that are driven by motors and potentiometers. The motors are locally controlled by microcontrollers or electric circuitry and are centrally controlled by a 32bit SH2 microcontroller. Dynamic walking is made possible by the use of a fast and inexpensive CPU that incorporates the bipedal walking algorism.

ZMP plans to release the morph-based home robot later this year. Through the open-platform strategy and aggressive formation of strategic alliances, the company aims to achieve its vision of grabbing the top share of the home robot market in the world.

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