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We recently took a look at the latest iteration of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which showed us how far scientists have come in building sophisticated robots, and yet how far those machines have left to go before they can get from point A to point B without falling down hilariously. But little did we know that while we were snickering at those clumsy creations, another group of engineers were building their own robot that can perfectly perform a severing strike with a samurai sword.

Japanese company Yaskawa, which now specializes in producing industrial robots, is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary. The inspiration for Yaskawa’s latest demonstration of cutting-edge design, however, comes from even farther in the past.

One of the stars of Yaskawa’s recently released video is Isao Machii, who’s been dubbed “The Modern-Day Samurai” for his mastery of iaijutsu sword strike techniques.

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Appearing alongside Machii is Yaskawa’s Motoman-MH24. According to the manufacturer, the precision movement of the arm-like machine makes it an ideal choice for numerous industrial purposes, such as assembly, material handling, and packaging.

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And also, it would seem, cutting stuff up with a katana.

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The first order of business was to record and analyze the movements involved in Machii’s swing, which Yaskawa’s technicians accomplished by outfitting the swordsman with a motion capture rig.

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Once they had the data they needed, it was time to input the motions into the Motoman-MH24, which allowed it to replicate Machii’s moves down to the manner in which he sheathes his blade after striking. After checking a series of practice swings, it was time to move on to four tests for the robot, starting with a diagonal downwards slice of a reed pole…

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…followed by an upward cut of a delicate flower.

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While both Machii and the robot performed roughly identical feats in the first two tests, the technicians started making things a little tougher for their creation from round three. So while Machii sliced a single orange in half, the Motoman-MH24 took out six citrus targets at once.

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The robot even managed to not only slice a single soy bean pod lengthwise, but to cleanly cleave the beans inside.

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For the final stage of the test, both Machii and the machine engaged in something called the “thousand cuts,” making a total of 1,000 strikes each on targets arrayed in a variety of directions.

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Once again, the Motoman-MH24 performed admirably, so much so that when the test was over, it seemed to have earned Machii’s respect.

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As the video fades out, we’re left with a sense of awe at what modern robotics are capable of, but also a feeling of dread that this whole thing might be a secret experiment by scientists to see if they can teach machines to understand the concept of bloodlust.

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Source: Yuruku Yaru
Images: YouTube/Yasukawa Denki e-Mega Site