Japanese robotics company Yaskawa Electric Corporation has revealed their katana-wielding robot. This robot can match a world champion sword master, stroke for stroke. The katana is the traditional curved Japanese sword used by the samurai, dating all the way back to the 12th century. Among the most accomplished masters is Isao Machii.

The video has been incredibly popular, with more than four million views. The video shows Yaskawa technicians outfitting Machii with a motion capture suit, not unlike the ones Andy Serkis dons for CGI effects in films. The data recorded by the suit, which captures movements from the sword master with his katana, are fed back into the Motoman-MH24 robot, a precision industrial and medical robot.

The research team says that it took months to programme the robot and refine its movements to match Machii. The motion-capture system recorded and implemented data down to the level of Machii’s individual breaths. After all the adjustments, the showdown between man and machine took place. The Motoman matched Machii blow for blow, slicing into flowers, fruit and tatami mats with accuracy and speed. The two then square off in the competition involving 1,000 cuts in sequence, after which Machii is visibly fatigued. The robot appeared to have the edge over the competition, as it showed no sign of tiring.

It seems that with a movement that has a clear beginning, and a defined end, the robotic movement is every bit as perfect as the Japanese sword master. The next test may be to attempt movement patterns that have more variation.The action of moving the extremely light sword from point A to point B at speed is relatively simple. The robot also does not yet have the visual sensory capability to find its own targets, and must rely on correct target placement. A robot that could define the direction of its own movement, with the same precision and speed as the pre-programmed movements of the Motoman-MH24, would be a step forward.

You view the two in action here:

 – Ian Dunne, Correspondent (Film)

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