Balancing act

Japanese technology group Murata Manufacturing has built a bike-riding robot called Murata Boy to showcase the capabilities of its sensors.

Japanese technology group Murata Manufacturing has built a bike-riding robot called Murata Boy to showcase the capabilities of its sensors.

A demonstration of the robot took place at the CEATEC 2005 exhibition, one of the world’s biggest technology fairs held in Makuhari, Japan.

Murata Boy (which is also known as Murata Seisaku-kun) is equipped with a range of sensors allowing it to cycle unaided.

The robot’s balancing ability was demonstrated at the show by having it ride along a 2cm-wide beam.

Murata Boy is around 50cm tall and weighs 5kg. It receives commands from a PC via wireless LAN which tell it to move forward, backwards, stop or start. It automatically switches into reverse if it is about to hit a wall.

Two gyro sensors are used to detect angular velocity, and if the robot is listing to one side it can shift its weight millions of times each minute to correct its balance. It can even keep its balance while stationary by changing the rotation speed of a disc-shaped weight in its stomach.

An ultrasonic sensor fitted to the front detects obstacles and measures distances, while a shock sensor monitors what is going on beneath the bike’s tyres.

Murata Boy is also fitted with an image-recognition system used to monitor the track ahead. Unfortunately, this function did not work properly at the demonstration because camera flashes ‘blinded’ its robot eyes.

Murata plans to use the robot in TV advertising later this year.