2007/08/16

Robots To Preserve Culture?

Thanks to George Kenney at Electric Politics for sending me the link to this story.

On the National Geographic website: "Dancing Robot to Preserve Japan's Folk Arts"

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The robot, HRP-2, is programmed to replicate human dance steps and is being advertised as a way to preserve Japanese cultural dances. Here is a video of HRP-2 dancing alongside a human to the traditional folk dance Aizu-Bandaisan:



There are numerous scientists and engineers in Japan raised on comic books and robot animated characters, who are still fascinated with robots that look something like a human, and they keep trying to find some practical purpose for them. They need to keep looking. Non-humanoid specialty robots such as those used in manufacturing are an example of an invention meeting a need. Humanoid robots are the opposite - a "hobby" or perhaps fetish looking for a purpose. Every few months another story comes out in the Japanese press about a humanoid robot. None of them do anything of practical value. If there is a need to preserve such things as traditional dance steps, it would be much simpler to create a computer program that would play them on screen in 3D.

Besides, I'm betting there will be humans around to learn dances long after these machines are recycled and their software languages forgotten.

11 comments:

Martin J Frid said...

“Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”

From a certain classic US movie...

The Moody Minstrel said...

Spoil sport!

If they want to preserve folk dances, why not simply have children learn them as part of their school curriculum?

ladybug said...

I agree, trying to make robots preserve something cultural like dance is silly.

Besides there are variouos technical notations to document dance (like there is for music)- They can be pretty complicated and not many people know them(due to video) - but it records many things video can't, like special interior movements of muscles. movement of the body through space, ethnology of a particular dance and other non-visual elements of dance.

ladybug said...

Also, what Moody said - "D'oh!"

That would be too easy, efficient and obvious!

QUASAR9 said...

lol Pandabonium,
the thing is before the end of the Century
Robots will be 'part' of Japanese Culture

and Not just as home robo pets
but yeah as home robo servants

Don Snabulus said...

It does seem like a lot of wackiness, but it is possible that some good could come out of all this humanoid robot stuff. Perhaps some of these designers will come up with mechanisms that can help human amputees gain more control over their environment...

...if they don't mind looking like a Power Ranger.

Pandabonium said...

Martin - you took the words right out of Moody's mouth.

Moody - yup.

Ladybug - good points on the complexities of dance which I hadn't thought of.

Quasar9- while robotics may play a larger role in the home in the future (after the energy "thingy" gets settled) there is no reason to cling to the humanoid form. In fact it may be a stumbling block (pun intended) :^)

And predictions are pretty tricky - when I was a kid we were told there would be humanoid robots at the end of the LAST century, electricity "too cheap to meter" from nukes, flying automobiles in every garage...etc. Technological "progress" does occur, but often at times and in ways we cannot predict. It is also something that requires many background factors which are not universal "givens".

Don - very true, and there has been remarkable progress in that area already, but I'm not sure it is related to the humanoid robot craze.

I think the real purpose in these news stories in the context of Japan is to draw attention to a given corporation or university to show the Japanese public and investors how technologically advanced they are. The humanoid robot image itself is a part of modern Japanese culture, so makes an effective "advertising" tool.

HRP-2 said...

I'll be back.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Oh dear how graceless the robot looks! As Ladybug said, there are systems of looking at dance movements and notating them - can't remember the names now. I don't really think a robot is the way to go! with film nowadays we can always have an archive of the dance steps anyway.
w.

Pandabonium said...

Wendy - I agree. In the future, if we want to get high-tech, a projected holographic image of a human dancing would seem to me much better than any robot. Just guys looking for a practical application for their toys I think.

Swinebread said...

They could also teach them to crazy foreigners who actually have a deep interest in Japanese traditions. At least they'd be human.