Imagine playing with a Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot, but you're the one getting socked. This week at Google I/O, Japanese technology company RT Corporation showed off its "Ninja Master," a boxing robot which is powered by an every day Android tablet.
We had a chance to stop by RT Corporation's booth and fight the Ninja Master in person. At around 4 feet tall by our estimation, the Master is about the size of a small child and has metallic legs and arms that can move with a great deal of articulation. A 10-inch Acer Iconia tablet sat in the spot where his head should have been with USB cables running between it and the body.
At the booth, Ninja Master was wearing boxing gloves, shorts and a robe, but this $50,000 robot is not being marketed as a gaming machine. He's being sold to research institutions and others with deep pockets to use as they see fit, perhaps as a robot that works with children or even a telepresence device. However, here at Google I/O, he's a boxer, because that shows off many of his key strengths (pun intended).
After firing up a client application on a Windows PC and opening the Ninja Master's boxing app on his tablet face, a representative from RT corp stood behind a camera and made gestures which caused the robot to move the same way. If the human punched upward so did the robot. If the human took a step forward, so did the robot. Later on, she also moved the robot using a standard game controller that was wired to the PC.
The boxing app was a really simple program that showed a cartoon face for the robot and had a timer with about 3 minutes on it and a set of stars representing the robot's life points. The Ninja Master on display had a red button right below his neck and, every time we hit the button, he lost a life point. While we were trying to hit the button, an RT corp rep was using gesture control to try to block and hit us with the robot's fists. If Ninja Master could outlast the timer, he'd win and, if I hit his button five times, he'd lose.
It was easy to push Ninja Master's button and beat him at his own game, but the ease or difficulty of the game was not the point. We were very impressed with the robot's ability accept gesture controls, its fluid arm movements and its ability to walk. And the brains behind all of this is a standard Android tablet.
Check out our video below to see the RT Corporation Ninja Master in action.