A new Japanese robot twists and rolls to iPod tunes in an intricate dance based on complex mathematics. Technology developers convince that one day robots will move spontaneously instead of following preprogrammed motions.
Equipped with Kenwood Corp. speaker systems, Tokyo-based venture ZMP Inc.'s 35-centimeter (14-inch) long Miuro robot - which looks like a white ball wedged between two halves of an egg - wheels about in time with music from an iPod portable player, which locks into the machine.
At a demonstration in Tokyo on Thursday, the 5-kilogram (11-pound) Miuro pivoted about on a stage in time to beats of a pop music track. Its dance wasn't preprogrammed, but generated by the robot itself.
Scientists involved in the robot's development believe the technology could one day lead to robots capable of spontaneous motion. Miuro uses algorithms, or mathematical rules, to analyze music and translate the beats into dances, according to ZMP President Hisashi Taniguchi.
"We aim to create a new form of life that moves freely and spontaneously in ways human beings can't predict," Taniguchi said. "We're hoping to turn Miuro into the ultimate virtual pet," he said.
Unlike older Miuros, which hit stores last August, the new prototype is fitted with software based on what scientists call chaotic itinerancy, a mathematical pattern similar to the movements of a bee circling from flower to flower as it collects nectar.
That allows the new Miuro to act spontaneously and unpredictably - "just like a child playing," said Tokyo University researcher Takashi Ikegami, who developed the software.
Other improvements will let users set the Miuro like an alarm clock so it wheels into the bedroom and blasts music at a certain time, for example, according to Taniguchi. Future versions of the Miuro will also use inbuilt sensors to proactively seek out people to play tunes to, he said.
ZMP has already shipped 500 units of the original Miuro, which isn't equipped with the intelligent software but instead responds to a remote-control handheld manipulator.
The 108,800 yen (US$895; Ђ665) original Miuro can also receive wireless signals from a personal computer to play iTunes and other stored digital files. Separately sold options add a camera that beams images to PCs or lets owners control their Miuros by mobile phones.
Miuro, short for "music innovation based on utility robot technology," is only on sale in Japan. ZMP did not give a date for the release of the new prototype.