The bipedal robot, for so long it was the holy grail of roboticists. Honda most famously produced some of the first walking robots with the “P” series, which has evolved into Asimo. Most of the bipedal robots today employ the zero moment point (ZMP) algorithm. This gives them kind of a stiff-in-the-knees walk and a permanent semi-crouch. Recently this has been applied to robots who, if you look closely, are really nothing more than a bunch of servos bolted together. Another entry into this category is “PLEN” from the Japanese company Akazawa.
Billed as a desktop robot, PLEN can be controlled from desktop software or via Bluetooth from a mobile phone. PLEN has a built-in 3 axis accelerometer which enables it to not only dance and walk like other bipedal robots but to also roller skate and ride a skateboard. Standing a mere 23 cm tall and weighing only 700 grams PLEN is pretty small, but still manages to pack a 32 bit ARM processor running at 33 MHz. This desktop robot will set you back about $2,000.00 US.
This is an exciting time for robotics as fledgling companies spring up overnight. The evolution of the home robot is about where the home computer was in the late 70’s. Most of them come as kits and are sold to enthusiasts and hobbyists who enjoy putting things together or just generally tinkering with stuff. What will be the killer application that puts a robot in every house? No one knows yet but surely the PLEN is another step towards that goal.