Akiba Robot Undokai

In an effort to get out more and see things outside of my small sphere of interest, I let a friend of mine drag me all the way to Akihabara to attend an event even geekier than anything to do with games: a robot fair. In the area just behind Akihabara JR Station someone is trying to improve the image of this deeply run-down and otaku area by building a series of new, impressive buildings and it was in one of these, the UDX building that Akiba Square, an event hall, is located.
On show were not only a wide variety of pretty useless but nevertheless impressive robots, but special sports events, like robot battle and robot soccer, as well as special demonstrations were held. All in all it was an impressive display, but I don’t think humanity has anything to worry about quite yet when it comes to global domination as a species.

A photo of a mindless automaton designed to do repetitive and boring tasks uncomplainingly looking at an android shaped like a woman
By far the most impressive and at the same time creepily freakish was the Actroid Der 2, a female android so deeply rooted in the uncanny valley that it made your stomach churn. As she stood static and vapid, like a true talento, she spoke to us of her functions in a giddy voice with lip-synch that was almost right and hand gestures that were very lifelike. Little motions of the head and eyes made the whole thing very convincing but not quite convincing enough. When she looked at you the focus was almost there but then when she looked down the eyes were dead and staring into nothingness.

Though mostly the robots on display were not designed to further the cause of mankind, but rather a display of raw awesomeness, there were a few functional machines there. The toys and remote, walking webcams were there to entertain the kids, there were a few machines to help the disabled, like a wheelchair and robot arm to feed those who can’t perform the task themselves and one or two cleaning droids. On the other hand there were many push-up, athletic robots, a failed skating robot, Asimo gave us all a wave, a tiny battle arena saw two tiny droids jitter each other into submission and by far the cutest robot ever made looked at you with two massive camera eyes when you spoke to it.

Here is a collection of photographic proofs:

You talking to me?

Heavily armoured kids taunt a robot penguin.

I wasn't aware there is a way to measure how theraputic something is, but there is and this baby seal scores highest.

Cute and wipes the floor.

By far the most boring robot: a big green square that cleaned windows.

Robot Battle was a harsh contest between two robots to see who could fall over for a bit less often than the other.

Worst of Show

By far the most useless, pointless and badly realized gadget was a tiny floating display which showed the image of a pre-recorded woman floating half an inch orso in mid-air; an entirely unconvincing and unimpressive feat, I assure you. The display had a stand at the bottom on which to put special cards with actions or clothes on, to which the woman would “react” by going into her prerecorded “eating Pot Noodle” sequence. Blowing onto the screen caused her to squeal and shield herself with her hands. Putting the “bikini card” on the stand made her pull-up a curtain, show a horrible cut, remove the curtain and hey presto, she is wearing a bikini.
The fact someone spent a lot of good money and time on developing anything so utterly useless is astounding. We had a good laugh at it, especially since the guy who showed us how it worked misinterpreted our laughs for delight, rather than derision.

A good but tiring day out, the Robot Fair was packed with visitors and kids and was all in all a fun and fairly impressive experience.

UPDATE: With many thanks to "videogamesartist" some YouTube footage of the event: Realistic Robot Woman, Robot Battle! HUMILIATION., Poor Penguinbot!

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