Autobots, roll out: Self-transforming Transformer toy headed for mass production
Remember that awesome transforming robot built by the one-man wonder Kenji Ishida? Well, apparently Takara Tomy took notice of it after videos of the robot went viral last year and is developing its own mass-market version under the official Transformers banner. They showed the automatically transforming toy alongside a robotic lion from its Zoids line, both controlled with an iPhone, at Tokyo Toy Show 2013.
Kenji Ishida has been working on transforming robots for several years, using a combination of CAD and 3D printing to fabricate the robots' outer shells. The robots, however, were time-consuming to build and program, and used relatively expensive hobby servos. Last year, he sold about 10 of them through his company's website at US$24,000 apiece. Obviously, that's way too much for the average consumer, which is where Takara Tomy and its line of Omni Bot toys come to the rescue.
Takara Tomy made a name for itself in the 1980s with its charming brand of robot toys that had moving parts. In 2007, it updated the line with a miniature bipedal humanoid robot called the i-SOBOT that could be controlled with a remote. At the time of its release, it was recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as the world's smallest biped robot in production. Takara Tomy developed its own miniature servo motors for the robot's 17 joints, which kept the costs down to an affordable level. At US$350 it was still a luxury for toy collectors, and its movements were pretty slow, but it remains one of the cheapest humanoid robots ever made.
The i-SOBOT ceased production a few years later, but at Tokyo Toy Show 2012 the company unveiled a four-legged follow up called the i-SODOG that could be controlled with an iPhone. It turns out that was more of a concept than a real product, but it showed the company still had interest in its Omni Bot line.
Now, at Tokyo Toy Show 2013 Takara Tomy has hit on a more bankable concept for both robots by branding them with the popular Transformers and Zoids series. Although Ishida isn't currently involved with the development of Takara Tomy's toy line, he has expressed a desire to add his expertise and believes he can improve the look of the robots if he is brought on board.
Currently, the Transformer robot is unable to walk, but as you'll see in the following video it is already able to transform from a car into its humanoid shape on its own. The mini servos aren't very quick or powerful, being so small, but chances seem good that it will be able to walk on its own in the future. The Zoids toy builds on the i-SODOG so it is capable of quardrupedal walking. Takara Tomy is keeping a tight lid on an actual release date and price.