Innovation is a nebulous term; the nexus of creativity and technology, amorphous and evolving in ways both unexpected and somehow grounded. The practice of developing new technologies is the new "final frontier", eschewing journeys to the heavens for journeys into the minds. But not everyone is trying to re-invent the wheel, and not everyone has given up on the stars.
Sea Creatures in Space
Professor Yochiro Kawaguchi of the University of Tokyo has melded the physical and mental frontiers in the creation of an imaginative new robot. The device, created with the theme "space jellyfish" in mind, imagines an undulating, wriggling creature floating through space with the same motions as terrestrial jellyfish. By combining unique robotic motion with commonplace images from Japanese animation, the new creature is a fascinating blending of the old and new.
The motion of the creation belies its truly groundbreaking nature. While previous robotics technologies have harnessed controlled, mathematic actions, the jellyfish utilizes these simple mechanical motions to create the wavering, mesmerizing dance in aggregate. By combining simplicity and delicate configurations, the device achieves motion rarely seen from contemporary devices.
Science Meets Art
The unique movements, in execution, become something of an artistic endeavor, according to Kawaguchi. "...For the future I would like to make it so that it can elicit various emotions," said the scientist at the Digital Contents Expo. By amalgamating mechanical motions to achieve emotional communication and response, the project aspires to transcend the boundary between human psychology and robotic execution.
But the artistic aspects of the project do not end with their perception. The original concept model was created using a traditional Japanese method of ceramics. This model was then used to create the CG mock-up before building began. According to the University of Tokyo scientist, this is an integral part of the project. "For the future I am thinking of incorporating traditional handicraft in the manufacturing process, so I am also considering lacquering. I am thinking of using previously unused combinations to draw out new possibilities."
A New Frontier
This combination of unconventional motion and emotional response, blended with traditional art is notable. By combining high-tech work with traditional Japanese handicraft, Kawaguchi seeks to create a new industry in Japan leveraging its strengths, both past and present.
How high-tech? As high as possible evidently. Kawaguchi envisions the project as a spacecraft, utilizing its unique motion and blend of technology to create as-yet-unimagined innovations through Japanese industry.
At this point, the project remains a concept. However, the blending of artistic and scientific aspiration to achieve exploration both psychological and extra-terrestrial represents an innovative leap of fascinating consequence. Will Japanese-lacquered space jellyfish ferry us to the outer-reaches of our solar system? Only time will tell.
Learn more about the robotic space jellyfish by watching the video below: