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Day 7: Evolta Robot … You are an Ironman!

A big cheer at the finish line. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

It took a week, but the Evolta Robot can now be called an Ironman.

The trio of robots – one each for the swim, bike and run legs – was challenged to finish the famous triathlon course in 168 hours. Each robot is about 1/10th human size, so organizers figured it would take 10 times as a long as a human to complete the 140.6-mile course.

The robot crews and a crowd of spectators gathered late Sunday morning to watch as the little mechanical guy whizzed onto Kailua Pier in 166 hours, 56 minutes.

(Photo courtesy of Panasonic)

(Photo courtesy of Panasonic)

After a spray of champagne and words of congratulations from Ironman race director Diana Bertsch, the robots were presented with haku laei and the entire crew jumped into the ocean.

Robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi said the challenge has proved the Panasonic Evolta rechargeable batteries are powerful, durable and functional. It helps usher in a new era in which batteries will no longer be disposable.

Takahashi thanked the crew and the people of the Big Island, saying the challenge would have been impossible without their support.

“We thought we were strangers doing a strange thing, but we felt support from all the people,” he said.

Although Takahashi and the crew put the robots through their paces in Japan, like most triathletes, they found the Big Island course is a new test.

Fighting off the rain. (Photo courtesy of Panasonic)

“When I saw him in the ocean for the first time, it was amazing,” Takahashi said.

“Because it was going 24 hours a day, there was no time to fix it properly. We had changed the motor in the bike robot to the faster one, but it was risky,” he said.

Among the unforeseen obstacles was a downpour while the running robot cruised Alii Drive. The wet conditions clogged up the wheel and meant extra maintenance along the way.

“On the last day, we knew we could finish it, so we switched back to the slower, steady one,” Takahashi said.

Approaching the finish line. (Photo courtesy of Panasonic)

Takahashi’s robots have conquered three previous challenges.

In 2008, one climbed a rope from the floor of the Grand Canyon about 1,700 feet to the cliff top. That took 6 hours, 46 minutes.

In 2009, a robot survived the famed French Le Mans car racing circuit for 24 hours.

Just last year, a robot used the rechargeable batteries for two months, running from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Tomotaka Takahashi conducts an interview. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

And a fifth challenge?

“I don’t know about that,” Takahashi said. “This was a good goal, but I would like to do another challenge.”

In addition to visiting with many of the Big Island’s robotics students, Takahashi said he had plenty of time to soak up Hawaii’s ambience while walking alongside his robot for a week.

“To see all the sights of Hawaii,” he said, “it definitely inspired me to build a new robot.”

— Find out more:

The Evolta robot crosses the official Ironman finish line. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

The Evolta robot crosses the challenge goal line. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

MEDIA RELEASE (Updated 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31)

Panasonic Corporation announced the EVOLTA Robot finished its toughest challenge yet, the EVOLTA World Challenge IV, at 10:56 a.m. Oct. 30, 2011.

The EVOLTA World Challenge IV began at noon Oct. 23 at the Ironman Triathlon Course. Three EVOLTA Robots powered by three EVOLTA AA rechargeable batteries took on the 230km triathlon with a goal of finishing within 168 hours.

Results of the Challenge

* EVOLTA Swim Robot finished the 3.8km swim in 5 hours, 36 minutes at 5:36 p.m. Oct 23.

* EVOLTA Bike Robot finished biking 180.2km in 97 hours, 42 minutes at 7:19 p.m. Oct 27.

* EVOLTA Run Robot finished the 42.2km run in 63 hours, 38 minutes at 10:56 a.m. Oct. 30.

The official result of the 230km triathlon challenge was 166 hours, 56 minutes.

Tomotaka Takahashi, who is known internationally as one of Japan’s leading creator of robots, the founder of ROBO-GARAGE and a Research Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo, said at the goal ceremony:

“We are happy to have made it to the finish line. I want to thank everyone, every member of the crew and the people of Hawaii. These days, robots are evolving rapidly due to the technological evolution of batteries and various other devices. I believe Panasonic EVOLTA batteries and this challenge have turned a new page in history for the robot industry.”

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