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The folks over at Robot Japan just held the 1st Robot Japan Dance Competition on Sunday, January 9, 2011 in Tokyo. This video has some clips from that contest, with several different entrants, and it is worth watching just for the silliness factor. There are a few worth noting for the skill and ingenuity that went into their construction and programing, mostly towards the end of the video.

And one of them, the Kabuki bot, is very reminiscent of the wonderful days when Steampunk Japan was created. From 1600 to 1900, from the Edo to the Meiji periods, Karakuri or Clockwork Dolls were designed and built, mechanical robots who’s movement and logic tree choices were based on mechanical programming rather than electronic. At the beginning it was imported technology, based on Swiss gearboxes (mostly watches and clocks with the occasional Mecha built into a cuckoo clock) brought over by Portuguese sailors. It didn’t take long for some truly smart artisans to grasp the basic principles and start designing their own, starting with a tea serving robot who would bring you your cup, wait while you drank, and take the empty back. To the best of my knowledge this was the very first practical implementation of household robotics in any form, and at the core of Japan’s current supremacy in the field; they have now been building them for 400 years, after all.

Thanks to Singularity Hub for the heads up on this one.