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Video: Kombusto, MIT's Interactive Dragon Robot

He may look menacing, but Kombusto just wants to be your friend

1 min read
Video: Kombusto, MIT's Interactive Dragon Robot

Don't be scared, he won't bite. Or breathe fire.

Unless, of course, your smartphone has teeth. And a flamethrower.

Kombusto, despite his extremely dragony appearance, doesn't have to exist in beclawed corporeal body. Since he lives in the cloud, even without a fancy $1,000 robot, kids will still be able to have a dragony friend on their (Android) smartphone. The fancy name for this is "blended reality," and it's a powerful tool for education, since it removes the traditional hardware constraints that come with robots.

The other advantage of cloud robotics is that every time Kombusto gets smarter or learns something new, all of the other incarnations of Kombusto in the hands of other kids can directly benefit from the upgrades. And while $1,000 may seem expensive to you (and it is expensive), for an institutional research robot this is dirt cheap. So, uh, can I buy one yet? And does he like to cuddle?

[ MIT Media Lab ]

[ DragonBot on Vimeo ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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