Tohoku University and Kyoto University Combined to Win at World Robot Summit 2018

Team Shinobi - a collaboration between Tohoku University and Kyoto University - won the Disaster Robotics Challenge at the World Robot Summit 2018 held in Tokyo in October.

Held over five days, WRS 2018 comprised the World Robot Expo, which featured exhibits, demonstrations and lectures on the latest in robotics development; and the World Robot Challenge, which attracted more than 130 international teams vying for prizes worth 100 million yen.

The competition was divided into four categories - Industrial Robotics, Service Robotics, Disaster Robotics and Junior - all aimed at promoting technology development, social implementation, and demonstrating the potential of robots to solve common problems.

Team Shinobi competed in the Disaster Robotics Challenge with its robot, FUHGA2, whose body is covered with tracked belts for effective movement on steep and rough terrain. The robot is also equipped with a light-weight carbon arm that can reach high objects like valve handles. The hand at the end of the arm utilizes a mechanism newly developed by Tohoku University.

The competition considered the participating robots' effectiveness in disaster response, human rescue and obstacle navigation. It also assessed the robots on their usefulness in infrastructure monitoring and inspections, plant disaster prevention and tunnel disaster response.

Competing robots showed a variety of sophisticated and advanced technologies such as image recognition and remote control. The most advanced functions of Team Shinobi's robot hand developed by Tohoku University are the "shape-adaptive" and "stiffness-changing" capabilities.

"Once the surface of the finger touches an object with its soft mode, it can change its shape to adapt to the object. This makes it effective for soft or even odd-shaped objects," said Professor Kenjiro Tadakuma, whose team at Tohoku University developed the technology.

"After adapting to the shape of the target object, the robot hand then changes into solid mode to grasp the object firmly. This stiffness-changing function is made possible by using a wire, and concave and convex shaped beads."

The members of Team Shinobi are no strangers to disaster robotics. For the past five years, they have worked alongside other researchers from universities across Japan in the government-sponsored ImPACT Tough Robotics Challenge, managed by Tohoku University's Satoshi Tadokoro.

The Tohoku University members of Team Shinobi include Tadakuma, Toshiaki Fujimoto, Akito Nomura, Masahiro Fujita, Hikaru Tetsui and Professor Masahiro Watanabe.

This is the first time Tohoku University and Kyoto University have collaborated for the World Robotics Challenge, but according to Tadakuma, there are plans to get together again for RoboCup Rescue 2019, and maybe the next World Robot Summit scheduled for 2020 in Aichi and Fukushima prefectures.


Professor Kenjiro Tadakuma<
Tohoku University Graduate School of Information Sciences (GSIS)
Tel: +81 22 795-7025

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