Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots

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9784770030122: Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots

Japan stands out for its long love affair with humanoid robots, a phenomenon that is creating what will likely be the world's first mass robot culture. While U.S. companies have produced robot vacuum cleaners and war machines, Japan has created warm and fuzzy life-like robot therapy pets. While the U.S. makes movies like "Robocop" and "The Terminator," Japan is responsible for the friendly Mighty Atom, Aibo and Asimo. While the U.S. sponsors robot-on-robot destruction contests, Japan's feature tasks that mimic nonviolent human activities. The Steven Spielberg film, "AI," was a disaster at the world box office-except in Japan, where it was a huge hit. Why is this? What can account for Japan's unique relationship with robots as potential colleagues in life, rather than as potential adversaries? Loving the Machine attempts to answer this fundamental query by looking at Japan's historical connections with robots, its present fascination and leading technologies, and what the future holds. Through in-depth interviews with scientists, researchers, historians, artists, writers and others involved with or influenced by robots today, author Timothy N. Hornyak looks at robots in Japan from the perspectives of culture, psychology and history, as well as technology; and brings understanding to an endlessly evolving subject. From the Edo-period humanoid automatons, through popular animation icons and into the high tech labs of today's researchers into robotic action and intelligence, the author traces a fascinating trail of passion and development.

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Review:

Book Description From the amazing automatons of feudal Japan to giant animated robots and the cutting-edge androids of today, Loving the Machine is a fascinating journey of passion and discovery.

Watch a video clip featuring author Timothy Hornyak--and robots

How Much Do You Really Know About Robots?
(After reading Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots, you’ll know a lot!)


Q: Where did the term "robot" first appear, and who coined it?
A: Karel Capek, pronounced [KARL CHAP-ek], in his 1921 play R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots).

Q: One of Japan’s first "robots" was a clockwork servant who would bring guests a cup of tea, then return to the server with the empty cup. In what century did these "tea-serving dolls" as they were known, appear?
A: The Eighteenth century, Japan’s Edo period.

Q: The animated hero Astro Boy may have 100,000 horsepower strength, but does he have a human soul?
A: Yes—and more importantly, he can fire bullets out of his backside!

Q: Wakamaru is a robot created by Mitsubishi that can recite news and weather forecasts that it receives from the Internet, look into people’s eyes when being spoken to, and charge itself when its power is running low. For what purpose was Wakamaru built?
A: For domestic help.

Q: The RoboCup, in which robot teams of soccer players from around the world compete, has as its ultimate goal the creation of a team of robots who will be able to take on the reigning World Cup champions. By what year do the RoboCup’s founders hope to have a team of robot Beckhams ready to face humanity’s top players?
A: 2050.

Q: What team’s humanoid robots won the RoboCup in the summer of 2006—and in several years before that?
A: Team Osaka (which is managed by Systec Akazawa Co. and includes robotics experts from Osaka University).

Q: Which team won in the Small Robot League this past summer?
A: Carnegie-Mellon University’s CMDragons.

Q: Sony’s Aibo robot, first available to consumers in 1999, was not a humanoid robot. What did it resemble?
A: A puppy.

Q: One of the most advanced robots in the world is ASIMO, a humanoid who can recognize faces, serve drinks, and run at 4 miles per hour. ASIMO rang the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange in 2002, and was parodied on a South Park episode in which Eric Cartman tried to pass himself off as a robot called "AWESOM-O." What Japanese corporation created ASIMO? A: Honda.

Q: In 2006, android maker Hiroshi Ishiguro unveiled an android clone of what person?
A: Himself—he figured it would help cut his workload in half!

From the Publisher:

A fascination with robots pervades Japanese culture, from cartoon shows to consumer toys to corporate engineering research. While in the West, robots are seen as threatening—think of the "Terminator"-style tales of technology out to destroy its human creators—in Japan, robots are far more commonly seen as partners, cooperating with the humanity whose image they wear. And several companies, including Honda, Sony, Fujitsu, and JVC, have spent millions in developing robots who return the investment not through money but by serving as technological ambassadors to the public. LOVING THE MACHINE: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots explores the reasons behind Japan's unique affection for robots, and looks at the surprising direction in which robo-mania is taking the country.

Science and technology journalist Timothy N. Hornyak takes readers on a fascinating and beautifully-illustrated tour through the robot kingdom, interacting with the latest technological pets and playmates, interviewing the engineers and designers currently creating the inhabitants of tomorrow, and even visiting the Osaka RoboCup, where every year teams of robots from across the world face off in games of soccer. Along the way, Hornyak reveals several different factors that have played a part in Japan's enthusiasm for robots.

LOVING THE MACHINE opens in the 1600s, when craftsmen formed automated dolls that served tea; Japanese robots took another leap forward in the 1950s when Mighty Atom (known to U.S. audiences as Astro Boy) launched a series of adventures that influenced generations of children and spawned numerous other mechanical heroes, including Mazinger Z, Mobile Suit Gundam, and the battling mega-mechs of contemporary anime and manga. Science fiction isn't the only place that plays home to robots: Hornyak visits industrial trade fairs and assembly lines, where robots have played a major role in transforming Japan into an exporting powerhouse.

LOVING THE MACHINE also looks to the future, when robots will increasingly interact with people on a daily basis, even in their own homes. More charismatic with each generation, robots are not only becoming useful to a greater degree, they are also becoming progressively adept in serving human needs for companionship and productive interaction.

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