A miniature humanoid robot lives on your shoulder and wants to be your friend

May 30, 2012 by Amara D. Angelica

MH-2 telepresence robot (credit: Yuichi Tsumaki, Fumiaki HOno, Taisuke Tsukuda/Yamagata University)

OK, this one pushes me over the “Onion threshold,” to coin a term.

A wearable miniature humanoid lives on your shoulder and can be remotely inhabited by your friends from anywhere in the world.

Hey, I’m not making this stuff up — it comes from IEEE Spectrum, a credible source, and it’s not April 1!

Anyway, it turns out Yamagata University researchers are developing a robot to make sure you’ll never, ever have to be alone again.

Think of it as Facebook Version 23 meets Revenge of the Nerds.

MH-2 (that’s “MH” for “miniature humanoid”) is a wearable telepresence robot that acts as an avatar for your remote friend, who’s also terrified of being alone. Know what? I don’t want to be alone with the creepy little robot, OK?

MH-2 is designed to be able to mimic human actions as accurately and realistically as possible. Think Telenoid, except it can actually do stuff besides wiggle around semi-creepily, as Spectrum puts it.

Instead of having said friend come along with you on a trip, for example, you can bring along an MH-2, explains Spectrum. Back home, your friend puts on a 360-degree immersive 3D display and stands in front of some sort of motion capture environment (like a Kinect, for example). Then, they get to see (shudder) whatever the MH-2 sees.

Meanwhile, the robot on your shoulder acts like an avatar, duplicating the speech and gestures of your friend right there for you to interact with directly.

The 20-DOF Miniature Humanoid MH-2: a Wearable Communication System, by Yuichi Tsumaki, Fumiaki Ono, and Taisuke Tsukuda, from Yamagata University in Japan, was presented this month at the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, in St. Paul, Minn.

Shortly after that, tiny robot outfits mysteriously showed up in K-Marts nationwide. OK, I made that part up.

Update: Kidding aside, a future version of this innovative tech could possibly find its way into future 3D versions of gadgets like Google Glass.