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Robotics Science

Dancing Robots Help Preserve Japanese Culture 244

Neil Halelamien writes "As reported on and other sources, researchers at Tokyo have used the HRP-2 Promet humanoid robot to help preserve moves from ancient Japanese dance for future generations. The researchers used motion capture to record the movements of a dancing master, then encoded and replayed them on the robot. The HRP-2 Promet robots are themselves quite interesting, capable of standing up after lying down and non-autonomously operating a backhoe. The external appearance was created by a designer known for his work on several anime series."
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Dancing Robots Help Preserve Japanese Culture

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  • by deft ( 253558 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:29AM (#11392692) Homepage
    I for one CANNOT welcome some japanese dancing fairy robots as my overlords. Maybe if they were veritech and at least transformed, but these robot overlords are way to geisha for me.
  • by KinkifyTheNation ( 823618 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:30AM (#11392696) Journal
    Couldn't they just record the moves for now and use whatever robots the "future generation" has?
    • I think that's the plan. I believe the motion-captured movements are stored in a manner which should be portable to future robots.
    • Why not just keep teaching the young? It doesn't matter that they don't want to (the young)--I know there are millions of young girls in America that are forced by over zealous parents into dance class.
      • At least the robots may spare them that!

        When a dance is a live part of a culture, people don't need to be coerced into learning it.

        When a dance is cut off, and reserved for a separate class, that dance is dead. The dances that I learned as a teen seem to have been specifically in rebellion against the dances we were force-fed in school.
    • I think a more accurate description would be that they have used motion-capture to preserve the dance movements, and used a robot to demonstrate that the data can be translated back into real-world movements. I'd me interested to know at what stage the inverse kinematics are calculated - at mo-cap stage, or at performance? I'd imagine it would have to be the latter, since different robots with different characteristics would have to behave differently to perform the same movements.
  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:31AM (#11392699) Homepage Journal
    Is it because I'm living in Japan and out of sync with all of you? Unfortunately, I can't think of much of substance to say on the topic. Sure, the Japanese are leaders in robotics, but everyone knows that. The dance topic itself is very complicated. My first real-life experience of watching Japanese dance was actually Noh theatre, which is a very special genre. The dancer was actually a "living cultural treasure", one of the old-timers who'd been dancing and chanting Noh for fifty years or so.
  • by ballsanya ( 596519 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:31AM (#11392701)
    Do the do DDR?
  • Sick... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by teutonic_leech ( 596265 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:31AM (#11392704)
    Okay, IDNRTFA - but the sheer idea of something like this is a testimony of where we are heading on this planet. A dance is a cultural heritage that should be preserved by human beings, not by robots, otherwise it loses its meaning. If nothing else - the thought of 'dancing robots' really freaks me out - and I'm definitely not a Luddite - just something sick about this...
    • Re:Sick... (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well it's better that the robots dance than go berserk and start eating old people's medicine.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If nobody wants to learn the dance now, it dies out. Then, if we want to know about the dance later, what will we do?

      This is no different from writing down the moves in a book or filming them, except in that dancing robots could eventually record the moves in a way superior to that of a book.

      Also, and this isn't really on the topic of Japanese dance, a dancing robot would be really useful for geeks. Many geeks would like to learn but are too embarassed to try with a real partner. It may be stupid, crazy,
    • Re:Sick... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DrMrLordX ( 559371 )
      How is it sickening?

      Stop and think about what you're saying. Do you mean to say that you are offended by robots encroaching upon human culture? Why would that be?

      Hundreds, if not thousands of visionaries, sci-fi authors, and movie producers have already speculated about what our future society might be like were it populated by numerous robots and other sophisticated devices possessed of AI. Many have theorized that the robots would rebel against us, while others have portrayed a future in which humans
      • Re:Sick... (Score:3, Interesting)

        A specious argument, a dance does not serve to appease a group of amok stormtroopers - LOL. Seriously, the point I was trying to make here is that an ancient dance performed/preserved by a robot is in the same leaque with plastic flowers. They almost look the same and can be perfumed to smell similarly - but they never will be considered a flower. As usual, in our Westernized (i.e. analytical) frame of thinking we don't see the inherent meaning of what is considered cultural heritage. If it needs a robot to
      • Many have theorized that the robots would rebel against us, while others have portrayed a future in which humans and robots/AIs can co-exist.

        But that is not the point. In such a society humans and robots would create shared cultural forms. Iain Banks does this kind of thing best IMO.

        Consider the difference between the evolution of the blues into a form where we are unsupprised by seeing white blues musicians vs. the tradition of blacked-up minstrel shows. Or imagine there was suddenly a fashon for white

    • If nothing else - the thought of 'dancing robots' really freaks me out

      In that case, I heartily suggest that you don't watch this video [].
    • Re:Sick... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dancingmad ( 128588 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @03:33AM (#11392920)
      Tell that to the Okinawans; as young people, especially girls, leave the prefecture, they are having a harder and harder time finding people to learn traditional Okinawan dances. Is it better for the dance to be completely lost than for a robot to do it? Surely someone can learn it from the robot, but if its gone, its gone.

      I'm sure a lot of people said the same thing when television could bring theatre into the home. A play on TV isn't real theatre, it loses its meaning.

      Furthermore, it seems to me that you seem to think that the Japanese are all going to teach their robots to dance and they won't have to bother. That seems pretty unlikely. This is obviously another step in getting functioning robots, not a government program to make dancing machines. In short, I call typical American xenophobia.
      • Re:Sick... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by willpall ( 632050 ) <> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @06:41AM (#11393543)
        Your post was well thought out until In short, I call typical American xenophobia.

        I read and reread the parent post and could not find a xenophobic statement up there. Just an understandable feeling of uneasiness about a human artform being preserved by robots. Although I do agree with you that it's better than having that artform completely lost, I still fail to see where xenophobia enters the picture. I call typical American-bashing :-)

      • Re:Sick... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by argStyopa ( 232550 )
        No, I'd say it's asking : what's the point?
        I mean, to say "look, we've preserved this dance! w00t!" does what, exactly?

        Cultural actions out of context are worth what, exactly? If nobody's learning the dance as part of their culture, and if the only preservation of it is some dusty electronic file stored on a dvd somewhere, it's lost its context. It's lost anything that gave it an inherent value. You've preserved the empty, now-meaningless gestures.

        Take someone from an inuit culture, and have a human pe
    • I did RTFA, and frankly I want this guy's job. Not only does he get to program a robot to dance, he gets money from people who believe this is a better way to preserve Japanese culture than, say, making videos of people dancing. I bet I could convince these same people to pay me to eat at expensive Japanese restaurants every night and save my shit in a jar.
    • Re:Sick... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Orinthe ( 680210 )
      So, I didn't RTFA either, but I did see it on the news (in Japan) a couple days ago.

      Anyway, what I saw was the traditional dance being performed in concert by both robots and traditionally-dressed Japanese women. Neither I, nor any of my American friends, nor any of my Japanese friends, found this at all "sick". Why do you?

      Why should technology be devoid of culture? If we choose to reflect our culture in our technology, as is very much the norm in Japan in my experience, does this not simply add to the
      • It's not sick. But it's clear evidence that this traditional dance is on the way out.

        Technology will be devoid of culture until computers become intelligent. Technology is currently an ARTIFACT of culture. And a dancing robot is clearly an artifact of a certain culture that has that dance in it's past. (Less clearly, the robot may come from a different culture thant the dance.)

        Perhaps, to look the most optomistically, the dancing robots can be a prosthetic for the culture, enabling a weakened limb to
    • But in Japan, robots can do anything, from fighting giant undersea monsters, to fighting giant space monsters, so I would guess they could do a simple thing like dance.
    • Re:Sick... (Score:3, Funny)

      by danila ( 69889 )
      You are definitely a Luddite and a human chauvinist. You are a disgrace to human race. And the idea of shortsighted people like you being allowed to post online really freaks me out.

      P.S. Not to mention that you have serious problems with logic, probably caused by your sub-par intelligence. Just a few months ago the work was finished on restoring documentary films about early 20th century Britain. Do you think that the British cultural heritage should not have been preserved by film cameras? Do you think i
    • Instead of reacting with contempt here in the West, we should embrace this idea. For example, how else will we preserve break-dancing from the 80's? Also, line dancing from the 90's. Frankly, I don't want to see human beings doing that stuff anymore!

      Line dancing. Now that is sick.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:35AM (#11392723)
    ...kill all the humans. Step, step, turn, shuffle, kill all the humans...
  • by KingArthur10 ( 679328 ) <> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:36AM (#11392727)
    To me, it seems like motion capture is not quite enough. To truely record a dance, you'd need multiple angle video capture, along with motion capture, and save it in a raw format on several servers, so that in the future, you don't have the dance altering, as too little movement was actually captured by our young, and very primative robots. The more raw data collected, the more accurate the dance will be for comming generations. Several capture techniques should be used in any such preservation.
  • The hell with that. I want that thing as a bodyguard...or so big I can sit in its head.
  • The system is down...

    Dancing Robots... (they're taking over)
    Dancing Robots... (they're taking over)


    (just ask Strong Bad [] ...I think the robot references might only be on the cd version of the song though)
  • Video (Score:3, Informative)

    by roboRob ( 850487 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:40AM (#11392750)

    Video preservation not enough?

    There are plenty of robots in music, like these [], admittedly for a different purpose. This article in the New York Times [] talks robots in art, and about this [] all-robot concert at Juilliard.

    What is the world coming to?

    • The robot might have been "excessive", but it's useful in a proof-of-concept sort of way. Video is a 2d projection only; for something as complex as dance (can be), having an actual 3d recording of the moves is superior to a 2d recording. This could have been done with holograms, but recording the actual position of limbs is probably still superior to a visual recording of their position. This is a case where video is nice, but there are better ways of recording the underlying information. The robot is just
  • no gap there (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 )
    And us Americans like to think we are more creative. That is the most creative excuse for funding I have heard in a looooong time. We are slipping.
  • Now all we need to do is give them beam rifles and not only will they run circles round us in football in 20 years, but they'll be dancing around mocking us as they kill us all in the name of skynet.
  • Now if only the robots could help perverse Japanese culture. They've got entirely too much of that.
  • by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @02:58AM (#11392810) Homepage Journal
    Domo arigato Mr. Roboto!
  • If only... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Master_T ( 836808 )
    If only they used these robots to record the dance moves from Napoleon Dynamite......

    Good heavens, there is money to be made.
    Someone call Sony.

    I mean seriously, these people build super robots, then teach them to dance? Couldn't we at least get them to do my laundry?
  • The researchers used motion capture to record the movements of a dancing master...

    As opposed to a dancing idiot?
  • by bprime ( 734645 ) <> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @03:47AM (#11392963)
    Optimus Prime has prior art, right here [].
    (warning: large flash site)
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @03:49AM (#11392970) Journal
    Reading this article gave me an idea:

    I'm an avid swing dancer. In order to effectively learn new moves, I either have to see a video or have somebody teach me. With the video, I can replay it as many times as I want, but I only get one 2D angle. With a teacher I can appreciate the full 3D movement, but if I try to get them to replay too many times they get annoyed and smack me.

    There's things like the Jiveoholic Dance Step Database [], which is useful by limited to 2D.

    Perhaps motion capture could be the best of both worlds? I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to capture the moves of expert swing dancers, and then have a piece of software to replay their movements in 3D. A user of the software could replay moves to their heart's content, switching to arbitrary angles. If robots like the HRP-2 ever become cheap and flexible enough, such motion capture could even be used to replay moves on the bots.

    Some folks at MIT made a very rudimentary "swing dancing" robot arm [], which provides swing dance leads. I wonder how long it'll be until we see humanoid robots capable of leading, or maybe even interpreting hand signals from a human and being capable of following.
  • One step further... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shoma-san ( 739914 )
    Anything that furthers the advancement and evolution of robotics is fine with me. I'll buy one...
  • DVDs, Movies? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <<logicnazi> <at> <>> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @03:54AM (#11392987) Homepage
    Alright you want to make a robot that does a traditional dance. Fine I guess that has an appeal but don't pretend it is to preserve japanese culture, unless that is the culture of making crazy electronic gadgets. After all DVDs and Movies of *people* are alot easier to imitate than dancing robots.
    • The important bit here is the motion capture, actually. It provides information on what the entire body is doing at any given moment in time, rather than simply what would be visible from a single angle in a movie. Of course, it's also possible to lose certain nuances in the motion capture process (for example, fingers dont work perfectly, and eye movements can't be captured at all), so a combination of the two would be best.
  • But... (Score:2, Funny)

    by xstonedogx ( 814876 )
    ...does it dance to ogg files?
  • by davejenkins ( 99111 ) <slashdot@davejBO ... .com minus berry> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @04:07AM (#11393037) Homepage
    My good friends who work in Robotics here in Japan all tell me the same thing: the Japanese robotics market is all about smooth motor skills and balance. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan have all the heavy-lifting industrial monsters they want, and they have the laser-precises lathes and machines for the exacting stuff. What is missing is the "human" element-- graceful walking and interfacing with humans. This is seen as the barrier to cross into the mass market-- your grandmother won't buy a robot until it can walk and talk like the pet pooch.

    I wrote a short article [] about this market, and how Linux is dealing with it.
    • your grandmother won't buy a robot until it can walk and talk like the pet pooch

      Talk? That must be one hell of a pet pooch.
    • That's a very different purpose than preserving culture.

      Using this as a demonstration of your robot's graceful motion is a reasonable goal. Using this to preserve culture is ... laughable. The dance is not the culture, it's a part of the culture, and only has predictable meaning within it's context.
  • Dancing robots help preserve culture - In Japan!
  • only robots dance for you...
  • by HanClinto ( 621615 ) <hanclinto&gmail,com> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @04:44AM (#11393147)
    ... but the robot that tele-operated the back-hoe was their old version. One of the old-style big-backpack robots, the new version is much more capable. If the poster had RTA, he would have seen that tele-operating a backhoe is "old news". Like I said, not that many would care, but the robots came a long way from version 1 (backhoe driving) to version 2 (jumping and dancing and flexible torso).
  • by mdm42 ( 244204 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @05:05AM (#11393208) Homepage Journal

    Wasn't it in one of the later Foundation novels that Isaac Asimov [] had a troupe of robots performing folk dances in the interests of keeping the dances "alive"?

    Just another nail in the coffin of good predictive SciFi, I guess.

  • ...Desperately Seeking Problem to Apply to New Solution!
  • In _Strata_, a kind of prequel to the _Discworld_ series, the Morris dance is kept alive on an Earth with a dwindling population by robots.

    Sometimes science fiction writers predictions turn out to be true (even if that is not the purpose of sf), but I'm sure *which* predictions hold water come as a surprise to the writers.
  • Those robots look a lot better with clothes on. A little dignity for our slaves.
  • Japanese R&D groups pour a lot more money into robots than anyone else in the world. Kids see robot cartoons and play with robot toys (transformers). I dont particularly understand this infatuation. Buit at least it encourages some part of the world to experiment more with robot tech.
  • Based on tons [] of [] evidence [], I didn't know Japanese culture had anything besides robots!
  • Maybe they could save Richard Gere's Career.......

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"