To promote Panasonic’s Evolta batteries, a tiny robot has started walking from Tokyo to Kyoto— a journey of about 300 miles (500 km) that is expected to take about 49 days to complete. The Evolta robot is only 7 inches tall and weighs just 2.2 pounds, but it already has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and an impressive adventure sports resume. In May 2008, it climbed a 1740-ft rope at the Grand Canyon, and last year it spent a day driving around the Le Mans race circuit.
Both the robot and the journey have roots in Japanese history. The robot is “meant to resemble an ancient highway traveler pulling a two-wheeled cart.” The cart also holds the 12 rechargeable AA batteries that the robot runs on. The Evolta robot will walk from the Nihonbashi bridge in Tokyo to the Sanjō Ōhashi bridge in Kyoto, along the Tōkaidō Road. From the 17th to 19th centuries, the road was one of the world’s busiest highways, and it was Japan’s most important highway during the Edo period. Since the 17th century, the road has had 53 post stations where humans could recharge their batteries. The stations were captured in a series of woodblock prints by the great ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige, which Panasonic has branded with its mascot robot.
In the old days, humans would typically walk the length of the road in 10 to 12 days. The robot goes slower at only two or three miles per hour, but has the advantage of being in a clear contraption like a hamster wheel to help it over any terrain. Panasonic showed off the robot’s walking ability in a going away party press event — here’s video: