Greetings from the Director
|The 21st century is an era when Information Technology will bring forth a new culture for humankind. The cyberspace on the IT network, however, cannot provide us with the field where effective physical communication can take place.
Robots are being introduced into the tertiary industry as Japan faces the decline of its birthrate and the increase of its aging society. Especially thriving is the development of robots for domestic services and entertainment.
IT provides our living environment with virtual objects, while robot technology provides us with real forms (robots) that exist in our daily life. It is obvious that IT and robot technologies will play an important role in this era, which some call an era of “creating a space for interaction”.
However, we are yet to have guidelines for designing a convenient and comfortable living space shared by humans and robots. There is actually still very little research on the influences that robots will have on our living environment. Various software and hardware issues have to be solved before humans and robots can naturally coexist together.
For example, robots need to be developed with structures, functions, and intelligence that are relevant to human’s living environment. Moreover, much research still needs to be done on tailoring lifestyles to use robots efficiently, as well as the designing living space for human-robot co-existence.
For robot engineering to become a core to social technology that will lead human society toward a more advanced lifestyle as the automobile, broadcasting, and communication technologies did, ecological research must be conducted to be able to create an environment where robots can co-exist harmoniously with humans and natural surroundings.
WABOT research group conducts research for the development of basic technology. In addition to this, research for the development of new relationships between humans and robots from multiple perspectives, such as interactions between robots and humans, buildings, life styles, information networks, and the natural environment will also be conducted. A model for the future role and presence of robots will be constructed here as well.
Waseda University has been one of the leading research sites for anthropomorphic robots since the late Prof. Ichiro KATO and his colleagues started the WABOT Project in 1970. Since then, we have developed a variety of humanoid robots by integrating the latest key technologies. These include WABOT-1, the first full-scale human-like robot, made in 1973; the musician robot WABOT-2 in 1984; Hadaly-2, which works together with a human partner; and the biped walking robot, WABIAN in 1997. Not only were many fundamental technologies created, many talented engineers and scientists were fostered from these activities. New robots are produced every year for the purpose of independent-theme research. Currently, we conduct cross-disciplinary research in various fields including machine control, artificial intelligence, multimedia, networking, communication, and interface. Our research results have been presented at domestic and international conferences and at other various events. Waseda University has earned international recognition as a prominent research center in this field through its efforts, such as hosting the International Conference on Humanoid Robots in 2001.