Vintage Japanese automaton back in action

This humanoid 'bot resides in Osaka. Eighty years old, it's just emerged from refurbishment and is once again ready to stare unnervingly at tourists at the Osaka Municipal Museum of Science. Neatened up from a machine translation:
"Golden "rita" stands at a height of 3.2m. In her left hand, it holds the 'light of inspiration,' and in the right hand, a pen. His face is made of rubber, with compressed air moving the eyes, eyelids, mouth, neck, arms, and chest. Facial expressions and movements are surprisingly smooth."
The most striking part seems to be that instead of simply recreating the old version, they modernized it and created a computer-controlled robot replica that's superior to the original. Here's the inside of its head:
"Eastworld," anyone? Can anyone translate those glyphs? Update: Commenters alternatively report that it means "study of natural law" or "Learn The Rule of Heaven." There's something neatly complementary and opposite about each of these interpretations. Source (Machtrans) [impress via TokyoMango]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at  
This entry was posted in japan and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Vintage Japanese automaton back in action

  1. Anonymous says:

    The three characters on the front are “則天學”, and should be read from right to left. The modern Japanese reading used in the original article is “学天則”, read left to right as gaku-ten-soku, and roughly translatable as “study of natural law”.


  2. jennfrank says:

    Oh, that reminds me. At Wired NextFest 2005, I could not stop taking photos of the inside of Android K. Dick‘s head. If you recall, the back of the head was deliberately left open, so that the circuitry would be exposed — the twitchy automaton was thought to be so much less horrific that way.

    Also, this month I finally read that kids’ book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and the first half of the book is all about renovating an ancient automaton who wields a pen and sits at a little desk. I don’t think I realized this was a common theme among automata? But now that I read this post, maybe it is?

  3. License Farm says:

    I find myself disappointed that the restorers felt the need to computerize what supposedly worked just fine mechanically. Isn’t it more of a wonder that way? I’m as big a fan of robots as anyone, but it seems like some ingenuity has been lost.

  4. Rob Beschizza says:

    Jenn, do you have those photos anywhere? I’d love to run them.

  5. A New Challenger says:

    The middle character appears to be “ten,” which by itself means heaven. That’s pretty much all the Japanese I know. Based on that alone I would guess the whole thing reads “Golden Rita.” There’s a high chance that I’m very wrong, though.

  6. maxgraphic says:

    The glyphs seem to mean “Learn The Rule of Heaven.” They’re written right to left as old-timey inscriptions often are.

    Here’s the Wikipedia page (in Japanese):學天則

    Here are a bunch of images via Google Images:学天則

  7. jennfrank says:

    The photos themselves are a little scratchy, as they were shot through a glass window. If you’d like to use them, you’re welcome to simply edit or delete this comment.

    Android Dick Waits for an Audience
    Android Dick Talks to Man in Hat

    Again, the idea here was, android Philip is uncanny and scarily corpselike, particularly when his machine-parts are so well concealed. And if I remember correctly, there are tiny little motors under the polymer skin, which very believably reproduce the muscle movements of facial expressions. It’s actually very upsetting.

    In the end, his creators decided to deliberately leave the wiring of his “brain” exposed, so that people watching him move and emote might feel a certain kind of relief when they see all the cables and the blinking lights.

  8. jennfrank says:

    P.S. More on roboPKD, via Boing Boing, three years ago. Again, it’s the exposed computer brain that really gets me, even now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


More BB

Boing Boing Video

Flickr Pool




Displays ads via FM Tech

RSS and Email

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution. Boing Boing is a trademark of Happy Mutants LLC in the United States and other countries.

FM Tech