Tadahiro KAWADA, Director, Kawada Industries - Aircraft and Mechanical Systems Division

Kawada Industries is the company that built the HRP-2P (HRP-2-prototype, showed left and below).

This robot, presented for the first time at the end of March 2002, is an anthropomorphic, biped machine. It has been developed for the Humanoid Robotics Project (HRP), sponsored by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), part of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.

Kawada Industries was in charge of the hardware design and fabrication, while two other companies, Yaskawa Electric Corp. and Shimizu Corp., were responsible of the other aspects of the project.

HRP-2P is taller (1,54 m) but lighter (58 kg) than Honda's Asimo. It has 30 degrees of freedom and will be used for experiments later this year including "walking on uneven terrains, falling or tipping-over, or getting-up from fallen positions".

Tadahiro Kawada is Director at Kawada Industries' Aircraft and Mechanical Systems Division, which was in charge of HRP-2P.

RobotsLife.com: How long did it take to create the HRP-2 prototype?

    Tadahiro Kawada: We got the contract in December 2000. Therefore, it took about one year to develop HRP-2.

One year! Isn't it very very fast to create an android? Did you use previous results/experiments from other humanoid projects?

    HRP-2P was developed from scratch. However, we've worked before on other humanoid projects. Our first one was H6 (started in December 1999 and completed in June 2000). So we've developed and built one H6, two H7s, one isamu, two HRP-2 Leg modules, one HRP-2 arm module, and HRP-2P in a total of 2 years and 3 months.
    And we are going to develop the final version of HRP-2 by this autumn! Yes, we develop robots very fast!

What were the main difficulties you encountered in creating HRP-2?

    Designing and fitting everything into the small body and fighting EMI (electromagnetic interference) problems associated with it.

So far, what is the robot able to do (in autonomous or human-controled mode)?

    The two modes are possible. We can control HRP-2P with a joystick or program it to work autonomously.
    You have to understand that the robot hardware was just completed not even a month ago. We haven't had a lot of time to do much with it, yet. We have not done obstacle avoidance, yet.
    But it can already grasp objects. Last week at Robodex 2002, we demonstrated that HRP-2P can carry a table with a human counterpart.
    In terms of artificial vision, the robot has three-lens stereo eye. But it does not recognize colors, yet.

What are the main differences between HRP-2 and Asimo?

    Apart from its height (154 cm, compared to 120 cm for Asimo) the main differences are:

    1) Control software is of open architecture (Open HRP).
    2) No bulky backpack.
    3) Hip joints.
    4) Cantilevered crotch joints (to walk on narrow paths).
    5) Uneven surface walk possible (planned).
    6) Get up from fallen position (planned).

What will be the primary use of such a robot when it will be completed for working in real conditions?

    All types of human interactive works, for instance elder/handicapped care, domestic help, work in dangerous areas, etc.

According to you, how can we explain the "fascination" of Japanese people for robots in general, and humanoid robots in particular?

    Many Japanese people grew up watching TV shows (Anime) with humanoid robots as "friends" helping humans and "comrads" fighting against evil, etc.
    For instance, "Astro Boy" in the sixties influenced many people, including the current top robot researchers.

In your opinion, when will we see autonomous humanoid robots working alone in the streets of Tokyo?

    In year 2030, but maybe earlier.

Interview by Cyril Fievet, April 5, 2002
Pictures: © Kawada Industries

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