We start to use 30 humanoids robots, NAO, for education and research in some laboratories at the Department of Mechano-Informatics, the University of Tokyo. It is based on the educational program of Aldebaran Robotics, France. NAO is a fine educational robot with many input/output peripherals and open software platform. In 2010 winter semester, Prof. Wataru Takano and I open a seminar for junior students on “About Beauty of Posture and Motion Programmed in Humanoid Robots.” We plan to organize it with Prof. Satoru Kitago and his students in Tokyo University of the Arts. It’s going to be a big fun.
I had a chance to visit Aldebaran Robotics in Paris in December 2009. Mr. Bruno Maisonnier, the president, explained that it had about 100 employees among which about 50 were development engineers. I met many of engineers in an open wide floor of the building in Paris, who were working at CAD systems, programming robots, doing hardware experiments and enjoying discussions. The engineers were from several countries including the US and some of them had Ph.D degrees. Just like a typical example of growing IT enterprises, the floor was active, cheerful, and noisy. To be honest, it was my first impression that the hardware would need further developments before the technology reached the level of SONY QRIO. Although Japan is still the leading country of robotics in particular with hardware technology and industrial applications, we could grow neither SONY AIBO nor QRIO in spite of their technical excellence and commercial success as robots. They are gone and we miss them a lot! I am among those who would like to see a hungry robotics venture enterprise spurt out from the robotics of Japan. I hope that the adventure of Aldebaran Robotics sets seeds of hungry robotics ventures, not only in this country.