April 30, 2010

Must Have: Lost in Space

We were watching "Lost in Space" last weekend and had forgotten how cheesy the show was. The show we saw (season 2, episode 7) featured not only Lyle Waggoner of "Carol Burnett Show" fame, it had a female robot that "spread terror throughout the universe." You gotta love that and the fact that the producers managed to dress the crew, including the males, in pastel.

Via Lost in Space

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April 30, 2010

BeetleCam Shoots in the Wild

How do you get closer to camera shy (or overly aggressive) African wildlife? If you are Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas, you attach a Canon 400D DSLR to a wheeled robotic platform. BeetleCam has managed to capture shots of elephants, lions and other animals from 150 ft. away. Unfortunately, it was mauled by the lions, but the photographers managed to recover the memory card and will rebuild.

Via Burrard-Lucas

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April 29, 2010

Robot Subs Fail to Stop Oil Rig Leakage

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BP has been using 4 submarines with robotic arms to try to stop that oil spill off the Louisiana coast. The arms were attempting to activate a blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Obviously, it hasn't worked so far as the vessel is still pumping out 5,000 barrels a day and covers 1,800 square miles. Another leak has been found while the Coast Guard has been trying to use controlled burns to contain the spill. Booms, skimmers and chemical dispersants are also being used in an effort to prevent the oil from reaching land possibly by tomorrow.

Via World Correspondents

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April 29, 2010

Robot Doubles as USB Hub

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These brightly colored robots double as 2 port hubs when you pop open their front plates. Once you have finished using them practically, you can wind them up for a few minutes and their arms and legs move. At a size of 7.5 × 9.7 × 4.3cm, the minibots are compatible with MAC OS X (8.1 or later) and Windows 98/SE/2000/XP and have a price of ¥2,458 (~$27.00.)

Via Rakuten

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April 28, 2010

Korea Develops Aquatic Robot

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The Korean Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is developing a wireless aquatic robot that can swim at a speed of 18 meters per second and crawl at a speed of 30 mi./sec. Each has six paddles and camera to find sunken ships. The $17.88 million project hopes to have a prototype by 2012 that can reach a depth of up to 200 meters and another by 2015 that can reach a 6 km depth.

Via Fareast Gizmos

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Robotic Wearables

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What's could be better than a Robot Belt Buckle? One that can move its arms. The 4 x 2.75" Z1-00 will keep you company and protect you from evil robot belt buckles. And if you would prefer your protection higher up, the wrinkle resistant G33K Robot Tie proclaims that resisting one is futile.

Via Robot Wearables

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April 27, 2010

X-37B and Its "Secretive" Mission

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The US Air Force launched a robotic space plane last week under a supposedly top secret cover. We figure that if we are aware of the X-37B, it's not all that secret. The Orbital Test Vehicle, after reaching space, will open its payload bay, assemble and stay there for months via solar power. The mini-space station will then fly itself back to our planet. What it does while it is up there is where the "secretive" part comes in.

Via Fox

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Creepy Mouth Aids Hearing Impaired

Japan's Kagawa University engineers built a robot to assist the hearing impaired to speak. Made up of an an air pump, a resonance tube, a nasal cavity and a microphone, the artificial vocal chords talks and uses an algorithm to mimic human speech. Once it compares the user's speech to its own, it suggests pronunciation adjustment. Check out the creeped out video. It kind of reminds us of one of Señor Wences' creations.

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Via Popsci

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April 26, 2010

Chararobo Creates Business Mascots

Want your own business mascot? Chararobo (short for Character Robot) will create one for you like the one they made for Cable TV Inc. Based on Kyuchan (kyu means 9" in Japanese,) the 2' 7" bot weighs 8.8 lbs. and acts as a greeter at the front desk. When a human approaches, he dances a bit with his 6º of freedom and Futabo servo motors. Get one for $8,600 - $16,000.

Via Plastic Pals

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Nedney Shows Up Robotic Kicker

Last weekend, San Francisco Niner kicker Joe Nedney was pitted against Ziggy, a 340 lb. titanium robot, to promote the Robogames. During practice, the kickbot managed to send the ball 60 yards, but that was on cement. When the time came to perform, Nedney managed to send the football 45 yards while Ziggy failed in both of his attempts. Domination of human over robot is still intact, at least on the football field.

Via Wired

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April 23, 2010

Must Have: Revolving Robots and Gears Box

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There is no limit to the lengths we will go to find strange and unusual robot accessories. The Midwest Revolving Robots and Gears Box has parts that actually move and rotate. The 7 x 4.8 x 12" device contains a bonus stash drawer and needs 3AAA batteries to operate (not included.)

Via Revolving Robots and Gears Box

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Schütte's RoboSpider Feigns Death

Germany's Steffen Schütte came up with this clever RoboSpider. The insectobot has a Javelin Stamp for the micro controller brain and an ultrasonic range sensor for its eyes. The bot can go forward, dodge, escape and, if all else fails, feigns death. Since the first one was created, Schütte has gone on to create RoboSpider II and III.

Via Steffen Schütte

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April 22, 2010

Robotic Orchestrion Goes on Tour

It's been a while since we found any musicbots but the Orchestrion Project certainly belongs in that category. Run by musician Pat Metheny, various instruments come up with some creative results. The acoustic and acoustoelectric musical instruments are controlled by solenoids and pneumatics. Check out Metheny's site for more details and tour dates.

Via Pat Metheny

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Robonaut 2 To Become Astrobot

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NASA and General Motors have finally come up with a human-like bot that is worthy enough to go to the final frontier. Robonaut 2's purpose is to determine how robots can help humans in space. R2 has two arms, 4 wheels and will be sent to the International Space Station this September. With a weight of 300 lbs., NASA is also anxious to see how he will perform in zero gravity conditions.

Via NY Times

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April 21, 2010

Interactive Guest Assistants Swarm CGS Center

The Ciudad Grupo Santander in Madrid utilizes cute headless robots to usher around visitors and probably the 5,500 employees in its 9 buildings by swarm interactions. Made by YDreams, the "Interactive Guest Assistants" are joined by a giant virtual wall and map in case the humans want to seek information on their own.

Via Y Dreams

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Punk Wreaks Havoc in Kitchen

Jason Bradbury came up with an idea to promote his children's book "Dot Robot: Atomic Swarm." He built Punk, based on one of the characters, but it seems that the spiked bot had ideas of his own beyond being a simple mascot and taking a tour around Jason's kitchen.

Via Jason Bradbury

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April 20, 2010

Autonomous Shelly Begins Tests

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Stanford University's Center for Automotive Research (CARS) has been toiling away on its autonomous race car. Shelley is a computerized Audi TTS that uses GPS receivers to sty the course and algorithms to adjust to surrounding terrain. Capable of speed of up to 130 mph, the vehicle will be tested on a dry lake bed in California and up Colorado's Pikes Peak. Stanford is working with Volkswagen and plan to have one ready for consumers by 2028.

Via Motor Authority

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ADF Utilizes Robots for Target Practice

The Australian Defense Force has gone one step further than pop-up targets and uses robots from Marathon Robotics for sniper target practice. The autonomous bots have Segway RMP bases and are programmed to wander around like civilians evil forces. (Serpentine!) When one goes down, they run for cover like girly boys frightened evil forces. So what happens when robotic soldiers start taking target practice? We get that much closer to humanless war.

Via Marathon Robotics

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April 19, 2010

TsutenkakuuRobo, Japan's Tallest Spokesbot

Japan has a new goodwill ambassador, probably the tallest remote controlled robot on the planet. TsutenkakuuRobo was named after Osaka's landmark Tsutenkaku tower ("tower reaching heaven") and stands 170cm tall. It walks, it talks and, if you check its website, interacts with people and other bots.

Via 3 Yen

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Nomadic Plant Cleans, Feeds

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The Nomadic Plant was designed by Gilberto Esparza to seek out polluted water, clean it up and feed it needed nutrients. Powered by microbial energy, the art project also feeds itself, proving that robots will save the planet by symbiosis. The roboplant is on display at Plantas Nomadas Gijón, Spain through June 7. Seeing it makes us want to rescreen "Silent Running", a nifty 90's flick with Bruce Dern, a huge garden and some of the cutest robot tenders that ever hit filmdom.

Via Greenpacks

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April 16, 2010

Must Have: SYMA Gyro Helicopter

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Show those other sissies and their measly mini-planes up with your SYMA GYRO HC Helicopter with built-in gyroscope. This new version has advanced stability, 2 micro motors, an LED light for night flying and can go for up to 8 minutes on its Li-Poly 3.7v 130mAh rechargeable battery pack. Recharge via included transmitter or USB for about half an hour to produce flights of up to 30 ft. And if you initial flight is a literal downer, a spare tail rotor is included.

Via SYMA GYRO HC Helicopter

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Hajime Restaurant Staffed By Robowaiters

If you plan a trip to Thailand, stop by the Hajime Japanese Restaurant, where you can be served by robots. Customers order on a touchscreen and the robots fetch their order. They also dance and bus tables. The eatery's owner, Lapassarad Thanaphant, spent about 30 million baht ($927,600) to build it and equip it with 4 bots.

Via DJ Mick Travel

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April 15, 2010

Trading Cards Illustrated for Robot Rules

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Author Gareth Branwyn convinced Make editor-in-chief Mark Frauenfelder to illustrate a series of roboticist trading cards. They were made to accompany an excerpt he wrote on rules from his book "Absolute Beginner's Guide to Building Robots." You can find the cards and rules on Make and Branwyn's book is available for purchase.

Via Make

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Retired Engineer Cooks Up Robotic Chef

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After retiring, Chinese engineer Liu Changfa wasn't content with hanging around the house or playing golf. Instead he took an induction cooker, a computer, a cell phone, a few spare parts and developed a robotic chef. At a height of 1.5 meters tall, he can cook several dishes from a preset menu after the raw ingredients are tossed into the cooker. Dishes can be customized with spices kept in his chest and he beeps when he is finished. A local restaurant has agreed to test Liu Changfa's invention. So much for retiring.

Via Oddity Central

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April 14, 2010

Robosoft Creates CTS

Robosoft, the maker of the elder care robot Kompai, created the Cynbernetic Transport System with a hybrid satellite navigation system. The electric vehicle, made with partners M3S, LCPC, SkyLAB and Cité de l'Espace (Toulouse) is autonomous and can move along a pre-recorded path. The CTS system features a laser scanner and ultrasonic sensors to avoid objects and keep a consistent speed.

Via Robot Living

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DIY Kabuto-Mushi Kit

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The Kabuto-Mushi (Rhinoceros Beetle) is a do-it-yourself kit that can attack other robots, small pets and dirty laundry when completed. It features an infrared remote with eight channels that control 4 motors, one for the claw position, and caterpillar traction. No soldering is needed and all parts are included.

Via Kabuto-Mushi Kit

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April 13, 2010

iRobot Teams With Jabil Circuit

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This might be a good time to invest in iRobot stock. The Roomba maker has entered into an agreement with electronic parts maker Jabil Circuit. The company will make, test and supply iRobots consumer products, allowing the bot manufacturer to "diversify key elements of our supply chain, provide geographic flexibility to address new markets with localized operations and expand overall capacity to meet growing demands."

Via Business Wire

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Geminoid F Exhibits Facial Expressions

Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, who previously made his own doppelganger, unveiled his latest project named Geminoid F. Made in the image of a woman in her 20's, she mimics the facial movements of the human sitting in front of a computer with camera and face-tracking software. She smiles, laughs and exhibits other facial expressions. With a new design, the cost has been reduced to about ¥10 million (~$110,000.) Start saving your pennies.

Via IEEE Spectrum

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April 12, 2010

LG Hosts Robot Vacuum Soccer Tournaments

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In an effort to promote their new robotic vacuums, LG has decided to hold a soccer tournament in Seoul, Korea. Thirty two teams will vie April 14 for 42" LED Canvas LG TVs. You can sign up to participate here. The rest of you will have to be content with merely sucking up dust bunnies.

Via Akihabara News

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Döner Robotu Cooks Kebabs

Germans consume about 2.5 billion Euros worth of kebabs each year and this robot is probably the world's first that can cut the mustard meat. Created by Ahmet Kalyoncu, Döner Robotu is operated by remote control and has a cam on it for blade guidance. The creator would like to sell to the over 15,000 businesses in Germany. Yummy.

Via New Launches

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April 9, 2010

Must Have: Robot Party Supplies

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Throw your bot buddies a celebration with these 8 colorful 9" dinner plates. Add to that 7" dessert dishes.

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Also available are 16 napkins and 18" balloons. Party on!

Via Robot Party Supplies

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Adept Quattro USDA Approved

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We didn't know that the USDA had (or wanted) the power to give a thumbs up to a robot used in food handling but that is just what they did with the Adept Quattro s650HS. The rapidly moving bots have four arm kinematics that make them faster than average. They can be used for meat and poultry processing in the areas of packaging, material handling and assembly applications.

Via CNN

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April 8, 2010

Roadster Transformer - Vroom!

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Take this remote controlled speedy roadster for a spin and when you come upon an unsuspecting pet/bud/co-worker, a push of a button will lift it 10" up to become a robot that will shoot suction cup darts. The 10 x 7 1/2 x 8" vehicle can go forward, backwards, manage 360º spins and make hairpin turns. At a price of $69.95, it comes with 8 darts and needs 6 AA and one 9-volt battery (not included.)

Via Hammacher Schlemmer

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April 7, 2010

SCHEMA Features Exoskeleton

Waseda University's Kobayashi Lab, the creator of ROBITA and ROBISUKE, is working on a new bot that should shed some light on perceptual computing. The 3' 11" tall SCHEMA (Multiparty Oriented Communication Robot) features 8 DOFs in its head and 6 DOF in its arms and will be the lab's first robot to have an exoskeleton.

Via Plastic Pals

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Firegard Aids in Disasters

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This unique concept could help firefighters in many situations where they cannot go. The autonomous Firegard records pictures and information with built-in cameras and sensors and sends the information back.

Via Design Blog

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Hey, Shrinky Dinks! Hey, Robots!

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It's been a long time since we were kids and didn't realize that they were still making Shrinky Dinks, much less that the color and bake toys come as robots. The kit comes with 40 pre-cut shapes to make 3 different bots, 8 colored pencils, beads, barrettes and earring hoops so that your kids can let everyone know you are one cool mom/dad on your next outing.

Via Robot Shrinky Dinks

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April 6, 2010

Geoff Peterson Debuts on Late Late Show

Mythbusters' Grant Imahara agreed to build a robot sidekick for Craig Ferguson. If you are a fan of the Late Late Show, then you already know that Craig is into puppets, hobos and, ever since he got on Twitter, robot skeleton armies. The robot was named Geoff Peterson and during his debut last night seemed to say the wrong thing at the wrong time until the very last few minutes of the show. It's true that the bot is limited in what he can say, so we are thinking that this can get tired really fast. Geoff may have to be content to hang out on his own Twitter site.

Via CBS

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Snookie Takes to the Water

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Researchers from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Germany have developed Snookie, an underwater robot that is made with an artificial sensory organ similar to those found in blind fish. Made of plexiglass and aluminum, the bot has 6 propeller gondolas to move it in the water and is aware of obstacles both in front of it and on either side. Future applications may be searching for airplane wreckage, inspecting sewage pipes and other underwater missions.

Via Physorg

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April 5, 2010

UC Berkeley's PR2 Folds Towels

You know those Willow Garage folks make some of the best robots. Under the guidance of Asst. Professor Pieter Abbeel, a team at UC Berkeley used an algorithm and got their open source PR2 to fold towels, pick them up, catch the corners and after finishing, put them on the table. They say they had a 100% success rate when the bot folded 50 at the 2010 ICRA. We can't wait until they teach it about sheets, tablecloths, pillow cases...

(Thanks, Jim)

Via UC Berkeley

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NREL Bot Grows Solar Cells

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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed a robot that grows and analyzes solar cells in a mere 35 minutes. It takes a 6" square plate of flexible metal glass or plastic and builds a semi-conductor on it. The bot then measures its light absorption, catches errors and prepares the plates for production. It has the added capability of solar companies hooking up their own tools to the central robot (there are 6 in all) to see how their own formulas stack up.

Via NREL

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April 2, 2010

Must Have: Bossa Nova Prime-8

We were really excited when Jessica Rusack of Litzky PR let us know that we would be finally getting a loaner of a Prime-8 from Bossa Nova to review.

If you have read any of our previous reviews then you know that we always give it the "cat test." If the cats like it, it is suitable for young kids. Prime-8 failed this one the first time he roared. In fact, only one showed up to begin with (we have 3.) This is no toy for tots. He growls, moves around loudly, has bad habits and will shoot his targets in a heartbeat.

On the other hand, there is a lot to appreciate here. He sings, dances if you clap, says he is sorry if he trips, and is programmable for up to 10 motions or tricks. He can express boredom, do push ups, stretch while on his head and crawl on his back. He also plays games, has animotion robotics (can balance on his arms) and is a perfect companion for a tween that still likes to play and has patience to program.

One of the cool things about the apebot is that he can be used as security. Load him up with those plastic darts and when someone enters the room, he shoots them before the intruder has a chance to load up his/her Nerf N-Strike Blaster. All in all, Prime-8 is the macho answer to Zhu Zhu Pets and once you get used to his loudness, ya gotta love him.

(Thanks, Jessica)

Via Bossa Nova Prime-8

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Hanako Trains Dentists

Hanako is a robotic dental patient built by three Japanese universities that will hopefully teach students to inflict less pain on their victims patients. She can spit, open and close her mouth, and talk. Even better, she expresses pain, rolls her eyes and simulates vomiting. That'll teach 'em.

Via Popular Tech News

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April 1, 2010

Virtobot Performs Autopsies

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Virtobot can take a virtual autopsy without chopping into the body. Used at Bern's Institute of Forensic Medicine, it projects a light on the body and records contours with a 3D HD camera. It also can image skin texture and can look for bullets, stab wounds and other gruesome evidence.

Via Swiss National Science Foundation

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Giant Gundam Returns Armed With Laser

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The giant Gundam will be resurrected this July at Higashi-Shizuoka Station, southwest of Tokyo, with a "beam laser." The huge Bandai Namco figure, which was visited by about 4 million people last year, will be in Shizouka again for about 6 months in time for its 30th anniversary.

Via Kotako

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