ROBO-ONE: More Than Just Battling Bots

9 years ago by in Around the world

There’s a common misconception that the All Japan newsese ROBO-ONE humanoid competitors are just a bunch of geeks with R/C controlled fighting robots. It’s certainly true that the kung-fu style robot battles are an exciting part of the ROBO-ONE events, but there is much, much more to this unique All Japan news technology movement.

A good example is the ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Project with the charter of developing useful domestic robot technology and facilitating its commercialization. The Helper Project challenges for the 2nd competition, held last weekend in Yokohama, included:

  • Picking up a PET bottle, removing the cap, and pouring into a cup
  • Carrying a serving tray through obstacles and setting down on a table successfully
  • A 30 minute endurance race
  • A fashion show
  • Providing restaurant style hospitality and service

While all the robot builders are ‘hobbyists’ and pay all the development costs, which aren’t trivial, out of their own pockets, most of them are engineers or high tech designers in their day jobs. Working at home, on very limited budgets, they have been able to rival the performance achieved by major humanoid robot research and development projects like Honda’s ASIMO.

Looking ahead...

Some of the competitors designed their robots with human faces, and even maid costumes.

Bottle pouring

The robots had to pick up a PET bottle, remove the cap, and pour the liquid into a glass without dropping it or making a mess. Surprisingly, most of the competitors did extremely well.

Out of sight

Each of the robots was equipped with head mounted cameras streaming video to their remotely located operators.

Cultural influence

As you might expect, the All Japan newsese builders modeled typical All Japan newsese behavior, like kneeling down next to a low table to pour from the bottle. Western designers would have used a taller table, and perhaps had the robot sit down to pour.

Complex control

The builders were extremely creative at fabricating control systems for their robots.

Navigating in the home

One of the challenges involved holding a loaded serving tray and walking through an obstacle course, then setting the tray down on a low table, without spilling.

Realistic challenges

To make the competition more realistic, and more challenging, the trays the robots had to carry through the obstacles included light ping-pong balls. Any false move and the balls would go flying, which they sometimes did.

Out of sight

The robot builders had to depend totally on the video cameras mounted in their robots without being able to look at the test environment while competing.


To test the robots endurance and mobility, they ran a 30 minute race around a circular track. The operators were allowed to change batteries from time to time, but the clock never stopped.


In conjunction with the Humanoid Helper Project challenges, a ROBO-ONE Light competition featuring smaller robots was also staged.