By Andrew Liszewski
Remember Teddy Ruxpin? For his time he was pretty advanced as far as animated toys go. But as a stuffed animal he was the last thing you wanted to take to bed with you. He had enough ’80s technology inside him to stop a car if left in the middle of the street, so I don’t think he ever became any kid’s best friend. A group of researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology are hoping to right history’s wrongs though, and are working on an animated stuffed animal that’s still soft to the touch.
Strings running through the bear’s arms and legs are connected to motors hidden inside its padded torso. By pulling on the strings with varying amounts of force, the limbs are able to move in different directions, creating a fairly convincing life-like effect. Furthermore, because the strings are under tension, the electronics in the torso are also able to detect and register when the limbs have been touched or moved externally, allowing the bear to react and move in response. Most importantly, it’s these kinds of advancements that will give mankind the upper hand and advantage when robots eventually become self aware and rise up. Arms and legs made of steel make punches and kicks very dangerous. But arms and legs made of fabric and stuffing? They make being attacked feel like getting an overzealous hug!