While the majority of American robot innovations tend to center around ways to get robots to do useful stuff, Japanese roboticists continue to build robots that are off-the-wall to say the least. The newest is the human sized Buttocks Humanoid Robot (BHR) that is actually nothing more than a robot that looks and acts like a human buttocks. According to Popular Science, the BHR “communicates” via muscle clenching and is meant to display emotions in uniquely human ways. CNET calls it a very strange “tale” while Discovery News can’t help butting in by suggesting the robo-butt is cracked.
All kidding aside, the makers of “SHIRI” which is Japanese for buttocks, have designed the robot to demonstrate advances made in building artificial muscle and skin, for robotics, which is rather far, as can be seen in the video the group has posted on YouTube.
At the heart of the system, CNET says, is a Gluteus Maximus actuator, which is in reality, nothing more than a motor that sends signals to electrodes inside of the artificial muscles causing it to flex and release. In this case, the artificial muscles are actually small airbags with air pumps attached. Inside are the usual micro-electronic components along with one surprise, an acutely sensitive microphone which is used to measure the volume of butt slapping on its exterior to help it gauge how much to react.
Discovery News says it’s not really at all about showing off the latest in artificial muscle technology and is instead about imbuing a robot with human reflexive actions. They cite the reactions made by SHIRI, when slapped, which is one of the ways the researchers “communicate” with the robot. The muscles flex the same way they would when a real person has their buttocks slapped. Also, if a person acts as if they are going to slap the robot butt, but don’t, the buttocks restrict and twitch slightly just as they would on a real person anticipating a spanking.
Other means of communicating with SIRI include poking, gentle stroking and prodding all of which produce reasonable facsimiles of the human butt in action when such actions happen to their owners. Movements are subtle with several appearing to be very near to intimate.
The designer behind SHIRI, is renowned Japanese robotocist Nobuhiro Takahashi, who is quite possibly the only roboticist that has grown famous for his unique approach to robotic design.
PopSci isn’t sure if SHIRI is an advance in robotics, but does believe the team has succeed in garnering a lot of hits on YouTube, which might be all the team was really after.