I don't wanna dance... I wanna scare you!

Japan takes the lead again, literally, by inventing a giant pink robot that can dance. Now at last men can safely waltz without coming into contact with terrifying girls. I predict that this will be a huge hit at junior proms worldwide.

(Don't worry, ladies, a male version is under development. They're probably ironing out the complaining-about-having-to-wear-a-tux circuitry.)

Seriously, it seems that ballroom dancing here is being used as kind of a sandbox for more general problems:

The Partner Ballroom Dance Robot -- or PBDR in robot talk -- has a woman's face, a sensor around its waist and can move in all directions on its three wheels hidden underneath an evening gown.
As its partner takes steps, the robot analyzes his movements and figures out how to accompany him with its shoulders, elbows, waist and neck. ...
The robot was unveiled last week in Chino in central Nagano province after six years of research by a team led by Kazuhiro KOSUGE, professor of the Department of Bioengineering and Robotics at state-run Tohoku University.
He acknowledged the robot did not yet have movements as sharp or as wide to match the dancing steps of humans. But PBDR is a step in another direction -- developing a robot that can care for the elderly.
Kosuge said good caregivers needed, like PBDR, to be able to guess what the elderly want them to do using the limited information available.

I for one don't see how giving robots the ability and inclination to extrapolate "what humans want" from limited information could possibly turn out badly!

Popularity factor: 3


Doesn't the PBDR look as though it should have been created by a lonely mad scientist who wanted someone to waltz with across the ballroom of his cobweb-strewn mansion, rather than a team of researchers at an accredited university?

Presumably producing a male version entails difficulties with the wheels-hidden-under-ballgown principle.

-- Tim May


Good thing we have Yoshimi to protect us.


That album is pure anti-robot hate speech. "Programmed to destroy us" indeed. You know what else is programmed to destroy us? Us!

Tim-- yeah, although I think in that case it would have a face with more personality, looking eerily like his long-dead daughter.

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