Yen for animation inspired Hong Kong designer's robot

Tue Apr 5, 2016 8:13am EDT
 
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(Corrects paragraph 12 to remove erroneous reference to sale of prototype)

By Venus Wu

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Like innumerable children with imaginations fired by animated films, Hong Kong product and graphic designer Ricky Ma grew up watching cartoons featuring the adventures of robots, and dreamt of building his own one day.

Unlike most of the others, however, Ma has realized his childhood dream at the age of 42, by successfully constructing a life-sized robot from scratch on the balcony of his home.

    The fruit of his labors of a year-and-a-half, and a budget of more than $50,000, is a female robot prototype he calls the Mark 1, modeled after a Hollywood star whose name he wants to keep under wraps. It responds to a set of programmed verbal commands spoken into a microphone.

"I figured I should just do it when the timing is right and realize my dream. If I realize my dream, I will have no regrets in life," said Ma, who had to learn about fields completely new to him before he could build the complex gadget.

Besides simple movements of its arms and legs, turning its head and bowing, Ma's robot, which has dark blonde hair and liquid eyes, and wears a grey skirt and cropped top, can create detailed facial expressions.

In response to the compliment, "Mark 1, you are so beautiful", its brows and the muscles around its eyes relax, and the corners of its lips lift, creating a natural-seeming smile, and it says, "Hehe, thank you."

A 3D-printed skeleton lies beneath Mark 1's silicone skin, wrapping its mechanical and electronic parts. About 70 percent of its body was created using 3D printing technology.   Continued...

 
Product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, explains the face and colour tracking functions of his life-size robot "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star, in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby