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Japanese robot goes bike-riding

A Japanese company has unveiled a 20-inch-high robot that can ride a bike and even stop without falling over.
Visitors watch the 20-inch-high Murata Boy robot ride a tiny bicycle without falling during a demonstration Tuesday at the CEATEC Japan 2005 exhibition in Makuhari, east of Tokyo.Koji Sasahara / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Japanese company has unveiled a robot which can ride a bike.

Murata Manufacturing demonstrated the robot Tuesday at the 2005 Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technology at Makuhari Messe, outside Tokyo.

The 20-inch-high (50-centimeter-high) robot, named Murata Boy weighs in at 11 pounds (5 kilograms).

The firm developed an earlier version of a bike-riding robot back in 1990, but the latest version can stop without falling over.

When stationary, the robot keeps its balance by changing the rotation speed of a disc-shaped weight and controlling the inclination. During one demonstration, it successfully rode and stopped on an inch-wide (2-centimeter-wide) balance beam.

Engineers from Murata Manufacturing said the hardest part of creating the robot was getting it to balance on the bike.

“The whole point of developing a robot that rides a bicycle is to show the technology of balancing in the environment, where keeping your balance is tough,” said project engineer Shigeki Fukunaga.

To solve the problem, Fukunaga said Murata's engineers installed a gyro sensor that detects angular velocity and inclination, then transmits the data to a computer that adjusts the robot's balance.

Another ultrasonic sensor on the robot’s chest measures distance.

All the robot’s movements — riding forward and backward, as well as stopping — are controlled by a wireless computer connection. The robot can cover as much as 30 inches (76 centimeters) per second.

The company, which manufactures sensors and other electronic components, plans to feature the robot in a TV advertising campaign later this year.