New Japanese Lightweight Robot on Wheels Can Talk

Hitachi is one of a number of Japanese companies which has been trying to develop humanoids to compensate for a future labor shortage in Japan.

Hitachi Ltd. unveiled a new lightweight robot that can converse while easily scooting around people. In a first for a humanoid, the robot has convertible legs, allowing it to walk on two legs or roll about on either two or four wheels, Hitachi said.

In a demonstration near Tokyo, Hitachi showed how the robot, clad in a red jacket and cap, could be used to bring drinks or paperwork or guide guests at an office.Standing 31.5 inches tall and weighing just 29 pounds, the "EMIEW 2" robot demonstrates a step towards production of machines that can live with and support humans, the company said.

Sensors on the machine enable the robot to learn the locations of objects and open spaces in an office while recognizing moving people. The robot can also serve as a receptionist or after-hour security monitor, Hitachi said.

Hitachi is one of a number of Japanese companies which has been trying to develop humanoids to compensate for a future labor shortage in Japan, whose population is rapidly ageing but which rejects large-scale immigration.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. earlier this year started renting out humanoid robots which can recognize about 10,000 words necessary for daily life and can work the front desks of offices and hospitals.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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