A couple of weeks ago Carla and I went to the newly opened Japan House in Hollywood to see a presentation about prototyping of robots. Japan House is a combination gallery, shop, event venue, and restaurant at Hollywood and Highland that "seeks to foster awareness and appreciation for Japan around the world by showcasing the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, technology, and more."
The current exhibition at Japan House focuses on the work of professor Shunji Yamanaka, who leads the Yamanaka Laboratory at the University of Tokyo. Visitors can pick up and inspect 3D printed prototypes of lifelike robotic creatures that look like insects, lizards, and otherworldly animals. Many of the robots are outfitted with motors and they move in lifelike ways.
Professor Yamanaka gave a presentation of his work that evening. I learned that he was the inventor of the card-activated gate that's used by millions of Japanese every day when they ride the rail system. I used these gates dozens of times when I was in Japan this summer to ride the subway, activating the gates with a stored value card called SUICA. (You can also open the gates with a smart watch, like the Apple Watch.)
Professor Yamanaka also co-created, along with Takayuki Furuta of the Future Robotics Technology Center at Chiba Institute of Technology, a robot called the CanguRo (Spanish for kangaroo). The robot can be ridden like a motorized scooter or it can roll alongside you and carry heavy items. Here's a video of it in action:
“Prototyping in Tokyo” runs until 10 October 2018, Monday - Saturday from 10 am - 8 pm and Sunday from 10 am – 7pm. Admission is free.
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