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Japanese Researchers Create Skiing Robot

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the can-it-ski-the-k-12 dept.

Robotics 52

An anonymous reader writes "In a bid to better understand the art of an effective ski turn researchers have recently built a robot to simulate the exact movements of a skier. The team of researchers from Kanazawa University in Japan built the ski robot to investigate the existing movements of skier's turns and see if there is any room for improvement on current techniques."

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Japan (4, Insightful)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#28778947)

I always laugh at their silly robo projects. It's easy to do but I know that eventually all their silly research projects are going to culminate in something truly astounding. After all the first attempts at flight were silly.

Their defense force looks silly wearing snowshoes (3, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 5 years ago | (#28778989)

It's not silly if your capital city is getting attacked by different monstrosities every week.

When the Japs do a T-2000, let me know, until then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779267)

Yawn !!I've even seen that movie, too !!

Re:Japan (3, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#28778991)

I agree with you, but the thing I find interesting in looking at the Japanese economy, and technical prowess leads me to believe this is more than just silly fun - or even more than academics.

Japanese society is aging rapidly, and their robotic prowess has been projected to be able to provide for the poor and disabled while their society ages. I've heard at least one person hypothesize that this will lead to the first robot/human society on earth, and given their prowess with robotics, I wouldn't be surprised. This should be interesting...

Re:Japan (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779855)

It's not the robotics part that's interesting here. It's that we're starting to realize, that in order to get a clear picture of what's really happening inside a human body, we need to build one from scratch.

IMO they're doing it wrong. They should aim at creating a robot that can be taught to ski.

Re:Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28780207)

IMO they're doing it wrong. They should aim at creating a robot that can be taught to ski.

I suppose you'd rather had humans live in caves until the point we could build skyscrapers, why bother with intermediate, useful steps?

Re:Japan (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779483)

Michael Crichton had this bit in (I think) Terminal Man where a company was being paid to develop an automated ping pong playing robot. It was called HAPP (Hopelessly Articulated Ping Pong player). The speculation was that the researchers were being paid to develop a short range ballistic defence system without actually knowing the real objective.

Building a humanoid skiing robot may deliver insights into how humans keep their balance. Maybe there is a new angle on hydroplane surface vessels with active suspension here.

Re:Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779597)

Sounds about right.

With luck, looking at this robot and making it ski they'll start going "Huh, well this is weird. Wonder why it's doing that."

First step to new innovations is always that something you don't expect. The sucky part of good science is that you'll have to go through a lot of "Well, knew this would happen but had to try it anyhow" on top of that weirdness.

It's Obligitory (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28778953)

I for one welcome our new skiing Robot Overlords.

Something is missing. (1)

TheP4st (1164315) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779005)

built a robot to simulate the exact movements of a skier

Many activeskiers with their entire torso amputated out there?

Re:Something is missing. (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#28780317)

What's that you're hacking off? Is it my torso? It is! My precious torso!

Re:Something is missing. (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 5 years ago | (#28785411)

Not just that, how on earth will they be able to do the important skiing manoeuvres like the apres ski - you need a drinking arm for that!

Room for improvement (4, Funny)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779007)

Hmmm how can we improve a Japaneese robot? It can transform into a jet fighter. It should have lots of weapons, with an activation system keyed to voice recognition so that the pilot has to needlessly scream out their name every single time they are triggered. It needs a theme song sung by a japanese dude with a rich baritone voice and then for some reason lots of little children backing him up.

Re:Room for improvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779983)

Mazinger Z!!!!!

Re:Room for improvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28780325)

Well, you've got my investment dollars.

Bhavish (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779019)

Nice postings..Thanks for sharing information

Crackers, Grommit! We've forgotten the crackers! (3, Funny)

mccalli (323026) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779033)

A skiing robot eh? And there's massively renewed interest in missions to the moon all of a sudden too. Hmmm...

If it's coin-operated, looks like and oven and is rusty, then run like hell.


Re:Crackers, Grommit! We've forgotten the crackers (2, Funny)

PrayingWolf (818869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779419)

In other news: Cheese syndicates scrambling to build armies of skiing robots for conquering the moon, which, as everybody knows, is made of cheese!

... prone to falling over ... (4, Funny)

SimonInOz (579741) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779041)

From the FA ... a version of the robot with the correct human ratio was very prone to falling over

I have just the same problem.

Skiing (1)

ChoboMog (917656) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779053)


Re:Skiing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779387)

suki suru dai suki

Could be worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779143)

At least it doesn't feed on the dead.

Re:Could be worse (1)

teamsleep (903456) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779201)

At least it doesn't feed on the dead.

That would actually be way cooler, not as constructive - I guess. Skiing really isn't that important to me or anyone on Slashdot, it's just not feasible.
Admit it.

This isn't totally new (5, Informative)

torrija (993870) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779243)

I just found a video of a skiin robot on youtube dated 2008 from the Jozef Stefan Institute in Slovenia: []

Reading comprehension fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779289)

I read the title as 'Japanese Researchers Create Striking Robot'. Thought it was going to look like Johnny 5 [] in the workplace reception, waving a sign around, shouting 'Scab!' at anyone daring to cross the picket line.

Could sell it to the French though; that, and a rioting robot, could do all the hard work of dissent for them. The possibilities are endless, although creating a womanising Sarcozy-bot (Sarc-o-bot? Droidozy? Sarcodroid?) might be seen as going too far. ;)

Ski instructors know the art already... (2, Interesting)

grrrl (110084) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779323)

It's interesting that they need to "decipher" the art of skiing - ask a good ski instructor and they can easily tell you about a lot of optimal body positioning, angles, joint movements etc, to be a great skier. That said, perhaps this is for improving already great skiers... but if they are trying to investigate even more precise angles etc, will a robot really deliver the correct data if it's not anatomically correct? If the center of mass of the robot body is different to a human, surely the angles of the joints and the base of support of the robot for optimal performance will be different to a real person??

It's also strange that they state "the researchers also programmed a motion plan based on the skiing style of world cup racer Gaku Hirasawa, who turns his waist to face inside the turn arc" when I was taught (while learning to instruct, under the Canadian method) that your feet must initiate the turn, and the body then follows (there should be upper/lower body separation).

Anyway, interesting... crazy Japanese, they really don't get enough props for loving robots so much!

Re:Ski instructors know the art already... (1)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779505)

(there should be upper/lower body separation)

Exactly. The upper body should stay mostly still and the feet should move back and forth under the body.

Looking at the image, it doesn't look like there is any lateral flexibility in the hips and knees. Not much chance of good technique there...

Re:Ski instructors know the art already... (1)

grrrl (110084) | more than 5 years ago | (#28780077)

actually the upper body should come around to follow the feet, but not initiate the turn... and it depends on how you are skiing (carving turns or short radius etc). Also it depends on who teaches you - the Canadian CSIA method had a few instructors who would keep their upper body down the hill a lot, whereas my French ski instructor had a very different style - follow your skis! would be the cry...

Re:Ski instructors know the art already... (1)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28781573)

If you have lateral flexibility in your knees, you have a problem.

Re:Ski instructors know the art already... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779885)

It is interesting that skiing is assumed to describe mountain skiing, while cross country skiing has been around far longer (Karelian rock art as just one example).

Re:Ski instructors know the art already... (1)

grrrl (110084) | more than 5 years ago | (#28780101)

fair point, except that TFA talks about downhill slalom skiers, and the text is all about modelling the turn - whereas (from my limited experience) cross-country skiing has a lot more moves involved.

Re:Ski instructors know the art already... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28794869)

I'm going to suggest that the world cup racer is probably right.

They're tops at skiing (1)

circlingthesun (1327623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779353)

This reminds me of that Eddie Izzard clip [] : "Well... er.. i got some elephants" "Can they ski?!?!?" "Oh they're tops at Skiing! If you've never seen an elephant ski then you've never been on acid!"

Saving Alps (1)

miodi (1600859) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779405)

If this gets more development time I could imagine a nice application which could give a money-saving nerd the thrill of the Alps. And without the hassle of flying there and getting expensive skiing equipment. Just enjoy crazy slopes through the sensors of the robot(s). Though, will this mean that Telemarker6000 will finally dominate the Winter X Games?

I, for one... (0)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779445)

.. eh nevermind.

Great labour saving device (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779451)

Much easier than driving to the snow, renting the skiis, getting cold and blistered. I can just hire a robot to do it for me!

But seriously. I wonder how this robot would go with a dead weight torso and head attached to it.

Horace goes skiing! (2, Insightful)

Rothron the Wise (171030) | more than 5 years ago | (#28779631)

Re:Horace goes skiing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28790831)

My immediate thought as well!

Now we should wait for the spiders...

Great!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779959)

Now you don't need to personally run up the skiing hill in wrong direction at full speed like the premier [] of the federal state i live in.

Fix it !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28779977)

The talk at last week's Semicon West in San Francisco was, for the most part, about the economy. Everyone seemed depressed by the fact that things are not picking up as much we'd all like, and that there are few "bright spots" in the market.

Thing is, the picture never seems bleak for Apple. I mean, the company is killing everyone. What is wrong with this picture? What is Apple doing right? Well, first of all, Apple is still advertising like crazy and paying no attention to the doomsayers. In other words, it has a positive attitude.

In addition to a positive attitude, there are other issues that need addressing if this industry is to survive. I've listed them here in order of importance. I truly believe that if we fix these problems/issues, things like the economic crises would not have much of a negative effect. Seriously. Here is what we need.

1) New killer apps. Where are they? The last killer app was actually the World Wide Web. People have been fixated on it and produced various Web apps that have yet to set the world on fire. There are some note-taking apps, a bookmarking app, and a bunch of other cute niche products. While some of these hobby apps, such as Writely, the online word processor, get bought by Google, most are pretty simplistic and none are earth shattering. I mean, take Flickr (please!). You can live without it.

2) Core development! While Linux, for example, will do some load balancing with six-core chips, and some programs are coded to use multi core, the fact is that these chips have not set the world on fire with huge performance jumps. On a typical Windows machine that runs Word and Excel, these chips provide little improvement. You'd think four cores would be four times as fast but no. Where is the multi-core OS? This all harkens back to the debate over parallel processing: no genius has come along with great code that takes advantage of the inherent power so all apps benefit. Pity.

3) Robots. I thought I'd drop this zinger onto the list. Where are the robots? Roomba comes along years ago and that's it? A floor-sweeping robot? Sigh. Meanwhile, Japan is working like crazy on robots. In the 1980's people were jazzed about the robot idea. Over 35 years go by, and we've got little to show. Oh, and by robot, I mean some device that can pick up the dishes and wash them as well as scrub the floor.

4) The talking and listening computer. This is actually one step down from robots, and nobody can mange to do this either. IBM kept bragging about its upcoming human-centric computer, or whatever it was going to call it. You could actually chat with the device. I'll give up on robots for the sake of a simple computer that can talk like the one in Star Trek. The fact is that today's machines cannot understand a word we say, and the computer-generated voices are from the late 1980's. How hard can this all be?

5) Machine translation. OK, now you have probably noticed that I constantly complain about this topic. And here I go again. I know that the complexities of idiomatic languages are incredibly varied, but can't we do better that what we have. Without knowing the language, you can likely do better by guessing context than most of these translators do. Often the translations do not make any sense whatsoever. And yes, machine translation is very good at translating "hello" and "where is the train station?" And so are the reference books from Berlitz. So what?

6) Handwriting recognition. As I write this complaint, I realize that I write this almost exact same column every five or six years and nothing changes. This in itself, of course, suggests the overall stagnation in the business.

I suppose the iPhone represents where we are currently in our industry. One of the most popular apps for the iPhone is a flashlight. This is an app that turns the screen bright white, so you can use the device to find your keys in the dark. Handy, yes, but it's not the killer app we need.

And speaking of needing better translation tools, the iPhone would make the perfect translation buddy, using speech recognition. Say you're in Mongolia. You're lost and you're trying to get someone to help you who, of course, does not speak English. You pull out your phone and say "How do I get out of this town? I'm lost!" Suddenly, you get the translation (in a good computer voice). Then you get the person you're trying to converse with to speak into the iPhone in Mongolian, which is then translated into English. Oh, and you should not ever have to tell the iPhone that it is Mongolian. It should know immediately. Now we're talking!

Google may be going in the right direction with the Android phone, which will take your words, send them to some massive heavy iron someplace in the cloud, and return text. Some people get good results. The key with these devices is to use the cloud.

This would also work for handwriting recognition and other computer-intensive chores that are impractical on a phone. I suggest further research along the lines of Google voice recognition, meaning using the cloud for massive computational chores. That said, looking back on this list, you'd think you could actually do all of these things with, say, a four-core processor, wouldn't you?

It's sad when the flashlight app is the only bright spot out there.

Is this cool... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28780009)

Our robots can hardly put together a car that doesn't suck...

and their robots dance, sing, play piano and ski... :O

maybe we should send robots to the moon to show them who is cool...

Now, if the robot learnt to ski. That would be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28780049)

Walking robots, running robots, football playing robots, robots that walk up stairs, robots that can stand after falling over... that's all very good but the true next advance will be when a robot can watch a human doing something, and learn to do something it wasn't originally programmed to do.

I don't mean to take away from the programmers who have done these things. I couldn't do it. But the next step is a robot which learns from watching. Then we had better pack our bags and make way.

Snowboarding (2, Funny)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28780097)

They had originally built a snowboarding robot, but it was too busy smoking pot for them to do any actual research.

Re:Snowboarding (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28788277)

Snowboarding robot?!? I thought that was the swimming robot [] !

Noooooooo! (1)

happy_place (632005) | more than 5 years ago | (#28780265)

The ski slopes are already crowded enough without adding robots. Sheesh... Soon they'll be taking over the Winter Olympics...

Skiing Technique (1)

iVasto (829426) | more than 5 years ago | (#28780537)

There is no one technique to ski. People learn different ways. For example Bode Miller has a sort of homegrown technique that is very different than other racers. The reason why there is no one technique is because it differs based on weight distribution, equipment (skis, bindings, boots, etc..), and snow conditions. You ski very different on ice then you do on powder.

How long until we game them? (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 5 years ago | (#28780803)

Just wait until we have the "human vs. droid" Olympics. Chess is just too passive. Soon, it won't be US vs Russia or China. It will be humans vs. robots. To be fair, there will be rules. For example, weight classes and size classes. This will encourage the robotics companies to build them better, stronger, faster and still fit within a lane of a track. Eventually, they will be the size of a human and increase in speed and strength.

This might be a good time to start implementing a "4 year life span [] ", for when they become "more human than human." And the robots will want to do a Voight-Kampff [] test to make sure the humans aren't cheating by using cyborgs.

"That's not very SPORTING!"

Obligatory Futurama reference (1)

janwedekind (778872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28781477)

Fast cars, hot nightclubs, beautiful women... the professor designed them all.

There must be some kinda way out of here... (1)

IcyNeko (891749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28781781)

Said the joker to the thief.

Skiing robot like"A Grand Day out" Wallace/Gromit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28783997)

Didn't I see this robot in "A Grand Day out" the Wallace & Gromit claymation cartoon? ;-)

Obligatory South Path reference (1)

EventHorizon_pc (1306663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28786761)

pizza.... french fries.... pizza.... french fries....

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