Lifestyle

Do you want to build a robot? Some less heroic uses for a personal droid

In Big Hero 6, which opens tomorrow, we follow 14-year-old robotics genius Hiro Hamada and his personal robot Baymax as they team up to fight the villain responsible for his brother's death and save the city. To do so, Hiro has to turn the inflatable Baymax from a health-care robot to a superhero. Infographics artists BILLY KER and ANGELINE CHONG take a light-hearted view of less heroic uses for a personal droid

MEET BAYMAX

Baymax is an inflatable robot built by Hiro's brother.

Its main function is to be a health-care companion. It can detect vital stats and can treat almost any kind of ailment.

1 SEAT 'CHOPE'-ER

Is that prime table at the food centre always taken by the time you get there? Don't have five packets of tissue?

Fret not, your trusty robot buddy can double as a seat-reserver while you queue for that famous nasi lemak.

2 MEETING STAND-IN

Whether you are always late or just don't think you can take another boring meeting with your boss, your robot has the solution.

A simple wig and make-up can do wonders. Who could tell the difference?

Just be sure to set it to "arrow deflection" mode.

SHOPPING BUDDY

Shopping is the great Singaporean pastime. But carrying all those bags can make it difficult to go on a huge spree.

A robot is the ideal companion. It can carry all the bags and won't complain about how long you spend in each store.

Program it with the personality of fashion guru Tim Gunn and it can even tell when those shoes don't go with that shirt.

4 ROBO-SELFIE

Selfie sticks? So yesterday.

Why take selfies yourself? Have the robot do it for you! With its extendable arms and accuracy, you don't have to worry about being cut out of the photo.

SOCIAL MACHINE

We're not trying to be cynical, but surely this would be the main use of a personal robot here.

Much like people calling Apple products thousand-dollar Facebook machines, we suspect a number of people would be using their humanoid wonders of technology simply to surf for social media.

6 things you need to know about Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 has become the big hero of the US box office, taking in more than US$56 million (S$72.5 million) and beating the much hyped sci-fi flick Interstellar.

Looking at the amount of work directors Don Hall and Chris Williams and their creative team put in, they deserve all the laurels heaped upon their movie, which is about a cuddly inflatable robot and a bunch of nerds-turned-superheroes.

Based on an obscure Marvel comic-book property introduced in the late 1990s and which had a six-issue miniseries published in 2008, the movie version has been given a total makeover in terms of characters and plot.

It also marks the first feature collaboration between House of Mouse-owned entities Disney Animation and Marvel Entertainment.

So what else should you know about this big-screen cartoon hit?


This is Disney's first film that offers ethnic diversity. Robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada is Japanese-American, like actor Ryan Potter who voices him, while Hiro's brother Tadashi is played by Korean-American actor Daniel Henney.

Completing the squad are Honey Lemon (voiced by American-Venezuelan-Cuban actress Genesis Rodriguez), Wasabi (African-American Damon Wayans Jr.), GoGo Tomago (Korean-American actress Jamie Chung) and Fred (US actor T.J. Miller).


DIRECTORS: Don Hall (right) and Chris William. PHOTO: REUTERS

The directors (above) checked out robotics labs at Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Harvard universities before designing Baymax, and chanced upon Professor Chris Atkeson at Carnegie Mellon University, who is researching practical applications for "soft robotics". This new field uses inflatable vinyl around a mechanical robot arm, which allows the robot to interact with humans without inflicting harm.

3 Director Hall found Baymax's unique face during a research field trip to Japan. The design of the huge bells in Japanese shrines caught his eye, especially the opening at the bottom of the bells which consists of two dots with a line connecting them.

Like Hello Kitty, Baymax has limited facial features and expressions too.

5 Clint Eastwood's tough, emotionally-reserved characters in his Westerns - and his famous "thousand yard stare" - inspired GoGo's "too cool for you" trait.

Rodriguez said at a movie press event that besides sharing the same fashion sense as her Honey Lemon character, she also used to build battle bots while in a robotics team in high school.

GIVEAWAY: WIN BIG HERO 6 MOVIE PREMIUMS

We have five Big Hero 6 movie hampers to give away, courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Bandai.

Each set, worth $270, comprises a Bandai Armor-Up Baymax, a canvas backpack, an adult T-shirt and a frisbee.

To win, answer this question:

What is the name of the heroic robot in Big Hero 6?

1. Jonny

2. Wall-E

3. Baymax

SMS your answer to 146077877 in the following format:

TNPMHERO <space> Answer <space> NRIC <sapce> Name

Each SMS costs $0.21 (with GST). Contest ends on Sunday, 11.59pm.




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