Yen for animation inspired Hong Kong designer's robot

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Hong Kong man makes his own female robot

HONG KONG, April 1 (Reuters) - Like innumerable children with imaginations fired by animated films, Hong Kong product and graphic designer Ricky Ma grew up watching cartoons featuring the adventures of robots, and dreamt of building his own one day.

Unlike most of the others, however, Ma has realized his childhood dream at the age of 42, by successfully constructing a life-sized robot from scratch on the balcony of his home.

The fruit of his labors of a year-and-a-half, and a budget of more than $50,000, is a female robot prototype he calls the Mark 1, modeled after a Hollywood star whose name he wants to keep under wraps. It responds to a set of programmed verbal commands spoken into a microphone.

"I figured I should just do it when the timing is right and realize my dream. If I realize my dream, I will have no regrets in life," said Ma, who had to learn about fields completely new to him before he could build the complex gadget.

Besides simple movements of its arms and legs, turning its head and bowing, Ma's robot, which has dark blonde hair and liquid eyes, and wears a grey skirt and cropped top, can create detailed facial expressions.

In response to the compliment, "Mark 1, you are so beautiful," its brows and the muscles around its eyes relax, and the corners of its lips lift, creating a natural-seeming smile, and it says, "Hehe, thank you."

A 3D-printed skeleton lies beneath Mark 1's silicone skin, wrapping its mechanical and electronic parts. About 70 percent of its body was created using 3D printing technology.

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Yen for animation inspired Hong Kong designer's robot
Life-size robot "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star, responds with a blink after receiving a command by its creator Ricky Ma, 42, a product and graphic designer, during a demonstration in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. The eyes of the robot include face and color tracking functions. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A life-size robot named "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star by product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, is seen in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the robot to fulfil his childhood dream. The eyes of the robot include face tracking and color tracking functions. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
The legs of a life-size robot named "Mark 1", which are made up of silicone, 3D printing parts and motors, are seen in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. The robot is modelled after a Hollywood star. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, poses with his life-size robot "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star, in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, poses at a balcony which serves as his workshop, with his life-size robot "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star, in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. The balcony is attached to his unit inside a residential flat. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Failed 3D printing parts to build "Mark 1", a life-size robot modelled after a Hollywood star, by product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, are seen in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Childhood drawings of robots by product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, are seen in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create a humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, gives a command to his life-size robot ''Mark 1'', modelled after a Hollywood star, in his balcony which serves as his workshop in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, poses with his life-size humanoid "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star, at a balcony which serves as his workshop in his unit at a residential flat in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
The body of a life-size robot named "Mark 1" containing silicone, 3D printing parts and motors, is seen in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Built by product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, it is modelled after a Hollywood star. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Life-size robot "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star, speaks and reacts after receiving a command by its creator Ricky Ma, 42, a product and graphic designer, during a demonstration in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Life-size robot "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star, responds with a blink after receiving a command by its creator Ricky Ma, 42, a product and graphic designer, during a demonstration in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. The eyes of the robot include face and color tracking functions. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Life-size robot "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star, bends forward after receiving a command by its creator Ricky Ma, 42, a product and graphic designer, during a demonstration in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, explains the face and colour tracking functions of his life-size robot "Mark 1", modelled after a Hollywood star, in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, holds 3D-printed parts beside a robot he modelled after a Hollywood star, in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A life-size robot named "Mark 1", built by product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, is seen in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot, which is modelled after a Hollywood star, to fulfil his childhood dream. The eyes of the robot include face and color tracking functions. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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Ma's journey of creation was a lonely one, however. He said he did not know of anyone else in the former British colony who builds humanoid robots as a hobby and few in the city understood his ambition.

"During this process, a lot of people would say things like, 'Are you stupid? This takes a lot of money. Do you even know how to do it? It's really hard,'" Ma said.

He adopted a trial-and-error method in which he encountered obstacles ranging from frequent burnt-out electric motors to the robot losing its balance and toppling over.

"When you look at everything together, it was really difficult," said Ma, who had to master unfamiliar topics from electromechanics to programming along the way, besides learning how to fit the robot's external skin over its components.

Ma, who believes the importance of robots will only grow, hopes an investor will buy his prototype, giving him the capital to build more, and wants to write a book about his experience, to help other enthusiasts.

The rise of robots and artificial intelligence are among disruptive labor market changes that the World Economic Forum projects will lead to a net loss of 5.1 million jobs over the next five years.

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