Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Robots and friends

Today I made my 'triumphant' return to school. Classes started on the 16th and I got a terrible case of the flu that evening. After the most boring, painful, frustrating and all around worst week since I've moved here, I couldn't miss anymore class, so I dragged myself out of bed and headed to class. I'm still not over my flu, but I survived today okay. My hope is that tomorrow I'll be even better.

But, I'm not writing about being sick. I'm writing about Ueno and robots.
On January 8th, my Japanese friend who lives in America stopped into Tokyo to visit. Previously she'd been spending time with her family in Japan, but on the 8th, it was me and her and robots!

I'd never actually been to Ueno, so I didn't know what to expect. All I knew was that there was a museum with robots in it, and honestly, what else did I need to know? I took this picture while changing trains at Akihabara. I find it quite disturbing and beautiful simultaneously.

I pulled out my regular camera and took one picture and it shut off. Either my camera has problems or the batteries do. I'm hoping it's the batteries.

Anyways, robots.

They really liked Gundam here.
Here's a piano playing robot.

That crazy silver thing in front is supposed to be a new type of wheelchair. It's more than just a wheelchair, but I can't remember exactly what it does. I read about it online a while ago.

This cute little guy was about 2 feet tall. I'd seen him somewhere before too. I like how he has a smile in his stomach.

I wasn't supposed to take this picture. There was a lot of Astro Boy (Mighty Atom) stuff such as hand drawn comic pages, early renderings, and just all sorts of stuff.

I'd heard about this robot too. Apparently his looks were designed by a Gundam comic writer. I don't know what was special about him besides that. I think he can climb stairs. He was shorter than I had expected.

And of course you have Doraemon on the front and that other thing I think actually is avaliable to buy somewhere. Or at least was. I don't know what it did, though.

I'd read about this ballroom dancing robot. Apparently she can teach someone to properly ballroom dance. She was also shorter than I had imagined.

Here was an automatic feeder robot on the right. Handy for those who can't feed themselves.

Didn't quite get this guy.

This was a kit to build your own robot. Once built, you can train them to do flips, handstands, crazy tricks, and if you get a bunch, they can play soccer.

After meandering for a bit, I heard about a show going on, so we got ourselves situated and waited.

That cool thing, sadly, did nothing. Nothing at all.

What I did get to see is a Toyota robot give a long winded speech about itself and it's friend in Japanese. The other robot did a fairly good job of playing the trumpet while awkwardly dancing to it's own music.

Now I know the revolution begins with "I just called to say I love you" on trumpet.

The exhibit was also there to remind us that robots weren't new. In fact, they'd been around for quite some time, just not the same ways.

These were some amazingly old robots.

And yet another Gundam. The red armor-like suit on the right is supposed to be an extra skeletal system, to allow people to lift more than they normally could, or to give someone who's almost paralyzed the ability to walk. Yet again, it was smaller than I expected.

Random flying things:

Nothing says awesome like a very old school robot playing on a very old school synth. I really wanted to hear those sounds.

But he was just for decoration.

Here are some little programmable camera robots.

Don't know what that red one does, but he looked cool.

These robots were pretty small. Not quite sure their purpose, though.

Here was en example of an industrial robot doing it's thing. It was pretty fast and efficient at organizing those tiles. Too bad for the robot, but those tiles just got dumped onto a conveyor belt. Kind of a sad existence, if you ask me.

After part 1 of the robot exhibit, we got a chance to meet Asimo. Asimo is Honda's robot. I may sound like a broken record, but yet again, I thought he was bigger. Asimo looks like a kid with a backpack. And he can kick a soccer ball.

He can also serve drinks, or at least take a tray of drinks across the room and not spill them. He apparently is also the only robot that can technically run. By that, they mean have both feet off the ground at the same time.

There was a cheesy demo where he emailed people he kicked soccer balls, he helped someone remember dance routines, and he 'served' drinks by bringing a tray to the table. None of it was all too impressive, but one must remember, this is a robot. It's entirely man-made, and isn't run by internal thought processes. It is just a box of electronics. And for that, the things it could do are quite impressive.

The day when helper robots in the home are commonplace isn't any time soon, but it looks like people are actually trying.

And here are the older models.

And at this point I said bye to Asimo and all the other robots.

Bye! See you in the future!!!

Attached to Ueno station is this MASSIVE platform. I'm not really sure what it's there for, but it was just huge.

There were some houseless people living there and some people resting on benches, but it was so incredibly wide, I couldn't fathom why. I'm sure it gets busier than a weekday afternoon, but even so, it was so gigantic, I can't imagine it ever being full or even crowded.

My friend took me to this area called Ameyayokocho, which is supposed to mean American village. It was one of the most un-American places I've seen in Tokyo.

Ueno had a much dirtier feel than what I'm used to. I guess that Shinjuku, Shibuya, Kichijoji, these are the newer, nice parts of Tokyo. Ueno seemed a bit seedy and very very old. Things were worn down from use. Buildings were selling everything from dried fish to fake designer wallets. There were a few stores that were only selling one or two name brand's products, but selling them for significantly cheaper than seemed logical.

It was an unusual experience, and I'm going to go back eventually. It was so terribly chaotic.

There also is a massive park in Ueno. Much of the park felt like what I described. Not new by any standards and not in the best condition. Not disheveled based on lack of care, but on age alone.

It was really different than what I was used to. We went in this one building and got to walk on a tatami mat that was quite old. It was amazing to not just see how people lived a few hundred years ago, but to walk around in it. I couldn't take any pictures, but it was amazing to feel.

It was quite a lovely place, despite it's obvious flaws.

They have a crazy police box, though.

So, then my friend and I went to Akihabara for a bit. Nothing truly amazing to speak of, but I did see this:

Yeah, I didn't quite get that display.

Anyways, my friend and I were going to meet up with another mutual friend in Shinjuku. It's the first time I've spent with both of them and it was a delightful experience.

I only wish we could have spent more time together. But, that's how life goes.

I will see everyone over the summer, it seems so I have that to look forward to.

The food at this place was amazing.

So, that was my day. After dropping my friend off at the train station, everyone went home. I can't wait to be reunited with everyone again.

1 comment:

JonnyMono said...

Holy Crap...
The Robot Museum looked AWESOME! How very cool to get to see that!

I have to say, I am impressed by the crucified Ultramanz also...If you can find an Ultraman costume that might fit a small chihuahua, your efforts will be rewarded.

Good to see that you are still having a good time out there, and I hope the flu doesn't stick around for too long.