Tosy's mROBO transforming robot dances to the beat of its own drum

Tosy is a Vietnamese robotics manufacturer in the fascinating position of manufacturing industrial robots as well as robotic toys. It seems determined to meld these two worlds with mROBO, an inexpensive robot that transforms from its speaker form to an 18-inch (46 cm) tall dancing fool of a robot.

The mROBO comes with 2 GB of memory, which will allow internal storage of about 500 songs. The audio amplifier and speaker are quality units, which provide solid bass down to a claimed 40 Hz. mROBO weighs 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg), and runs off batteries. The unit measures 4.3 (D) x 6.3 (W) x 7.9 (H) inches (10 x 16 x 20 cm), so is easily portable. It seems a quality, but rather pedestrian, portable speaker. Until it stretches its legs.

mROBO's form is clearly male, and likely intended to suggest Michael Jackson. Tosy has equipped him with software that analyzes music for beats and rhythms, and then tries to identify the type of music being played. It then responds to that music with a sequence of appropriate programmed dance moves. It can get down to its own music, any music it can hear, or to music streamed via Bluetooth.

On the video, the dancing appears pretty solid – at least, it is a lot better than mine. (No moonwalking, though – no knees or ankles.) Tosy is silent about the range of music that mROBO can recognize, but I suspect it doesn't do ballroom. Still, with DWTS and others still on television, who knows?

Not only does it play music and dance, but the urge to get up and dance with mROBO is nearly irresistible. Not enough action by mROBO has yet surfaced to evaluate how creative it seems – for example, if it does the same dance for a given song every time, or if there is a random factor thrown into its programming. Until (if?) it grows boring, though, I predict a great deal of fun coming from an association with mROBO.

The mROBO was unveiled this week at CEATEC (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) Japan 2012 and is expected to retail at around US$200 when it goes on sale next year.

Another of Tosy's R&D projects is called Topio 3.0 Ping Pong, a robot that plays ping pong with people, as well as walking and dancing with them. It has the form of a full sized human at 6'2" (1.88 m) and 264 lbs (120 kg). He comes with a 1 kWh lithium battery, has 38 degrees of freedom, and working arms, hands, and legs. To me he looks like a prototype for a humanoid household companion – time will tell. In the meantime, get down and boogie with mROBO in the video below.