HRP-4 robot can strike a pose, pour drinks

Japan is still upgrading its HRP series of humanoid servants. The latest prototype, HRP-4, can stand on one leg, strike a pose, and generally look cool.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
The HRP-4 is designed to be a worker drone, but it seems more interested in hanging out. Does it notice the cap on the bottle?
The HRP-4 is designed to be a worker drone, but it seems more interested in hanging out. Does it notice the cap on the bottle? AIST

Japan has added another soldier to its humanoid robot army following last year's fembot supermodel. The HRP-4 is the latest edition in the state-backed humanoid project. It's leaner, lighter, and can balance itself with yogic ease.

Developed by bridge builder Kawada Industries and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), the HRP-4 can stand on one leg, track faces and objects, and respond to voice commands.

HRP-4 sports a RoboCop look, but it's more C-3PO. Designed under the theme of a "slim athlete," it weighs a mere 86 pounds including battery. That's about 9 pounds less than its sister bot HRP-4C, which made waves last year modeling a dress at a bridal fashion show in Osaka, as well as Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo.

HRP-4 with predecessors HRP-2, HRP-3 and HRP-4C.
One big, happy family: HRP-4 with predecessors HRP-2, HRP-3 and HRP-4C. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

HRP-4 stands nearly 5 feet tall and has 34 moving joints, with seven in each arm, as well as fingers than can move more precisely than earlier HRP models. Each arm has a load capacity of about 1 pound.

All joint motors are less than 80 watts for design safety. A compact notebook computer can be installed in HRP-4's back to increase onboard data processing.

Kawada and AIST have previously shown off how HRP bots can be useful around the house, wielding power tools and pouring drinks. The HRP-2 Promet has been shown walking on uneven terrain and even helping install wall paneling.

The video below shows HRP-4 introducing itself, showing off some moves and tracking a man's face (it stands on one leg at around 4:25).

HRP-4 is the result of over a decade of research by the public and private sector in Japan, and inherits technology originally developed by Honda. The droid will go on sale for around 26 million yen (some $300,000; software not included) starting in January. Kawada and AIST are targeting foreign and domestic research centers and universities as potential buyers.

While I doubt they'll find many, I'm glad to see the HRP project is moving to commercialization after vast sums in investment. My fave HRP moment to date was when it performed a charming folk dance several years ago. I hope it becomes not only entertaining, but useful.

(Via Pink Tentacle)