Japan’s Fastest Robot Mouse Takes the Cheese (video)

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Many mice ran the maze, but only Tetra (right) owned it.

Every year mice gather in Japan to challenge each other to a game of wits and speed in an elaborate maze. This year’s winner was named ‘Tetra’ and its blazing fast moves have to be seen to be believed. The 31st annual All Japan Micromouse Competition was held this past week in Tsukuba with dozens of robotic mice vying for the top position. The mechanical mouse-like vehicles slowly map out the complicated maze and then make several attempts to solve it as fast as possible. Taking first place in the classic division was the popular engineer Kato-san, who’s robot mice have been the talk of the competition. With Kato’s win, the Japanese have regained their Micromouse crown from recent victors from Singapore. Kato’s Tetra won with a daring run of 4.693 seconds. To see how impressive that is, you have to watch it in action. Check out the video of Tetra’s time trials in the video below. If not for a few skids I think Kato could have shaved even more time off his record. That’s one face robot mouse!

I’ve cued the video up to 1:15 so you can see all the time trials. If you’re interested in how Tetra maps the maze feel free to go back to the beginning. I hear that it performs this task relatively quickly compared to competitors.

Tetra isn’t Kato-san’s only super fast micromouse. Egg Torte, which we discussed a few weeks ago, competes in the half-size division and has really been impressing people this year. According to Kato, Egg Torte took third in the competition. One championship and one third place finish. Not bad, Kato-san.

Here’s a quick look at one of Egg Torte’s test runs from this year’s match:

…and a slow motion video of Egg Torte’s victory in the prelims:

While the immediate practicality of having robot mice race through mazes isn’t obvious, I’m still impressed by the Micromouse Competition. For thirty years, Japan has been gathering creative engineers into this speed battle and the results are clear. Innovators like Kato-san are pushing the limits of what these little bots can do. Other Micromouse competitions around the world aren’t quite as old, but they draw in some noteworthy talent as well. Perhaps competitions aimed at more applicable tasks (mine detection, human rescue, etc) could harness this talent and put it to better use. Or maybe we can all simply enjoy watching good engineering at work. Either way, I’m excited to see what Kato brings to the maze next year. Although, unless he straps a jetpack on Tetra I don’t know how it could get any faster, and jetpacks are against the rules. Seriously.

[image credits: Robot-Dreams]

[sources: Kato’s blog (JP), Robot-Dreams]