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JAPAN: ROBOT PETS

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Japanese/English

Robots have long been used in industry to carry out tasks too difficult or laborious for humans.

But in Japan, the cutting edge technology is also being used for more friendly purposes.

Companies there have developed robot pets using the latest expertise which are now being marketed.

It's just another relaxing afternoon for Yoshiki Kuraki at his flat in Tokyo.

But the little dog-like object chewing Kuraki's socks is not made of flesh and blood.

When Kuraki looks down at his best friend, the yawn isn't that of a real dog, but the product of Sony's state-of-the-art technology.

Aibo combines cutting edge robotics and artificial intelligence technology and has autonomous doglike movement.

It's so convincing, it's enough to put even a real cat on its toes.

Aibo was put on the market in June 1999 and costs 25-hundred U-S dollars and became the first ever mass produced pet robot in history.

SOUNDBITE: (Japanese)
"I had an interest in it not as a pet but as a machine. Isn't it wonderful to have a robot at home?"
SUPER CAPTION: Yoshiki Kuraki, The Owner of Aibo

Ten thousands robodogs were sold on the first day of sales.

Not a dog lover? Then, this might be for you.

It's a cat robot produced by Omron and it's called Tama.

It doesn't walk, but it does have remarkably lifelike facial expressions.

Tama's blinking is the outcome of Omron's research on the workings of the mind over two-and-a-half years.

Robotic technology isn't limited simply to land creatures.

Seen here gracefully swimming is Mitsubishi Heavy Industry's fishrobot.

Mitsubishi applied submarine technology to the silicon fish which can cruise at half a knot.

Japan has held a leading position in the robot industry since the 1970's and produces the majority of industrial robots.

Just a month before the new Millenium, the industry seems to be on the brink of a new era thanks to the advancement of computer chip technology.

The ever smaller size of C-P-U's (Central Processing Units) has made it possible to make smaller, smarter robots which are more flexible and can mimic real life movement.

Scientists believe these robots will become more and more common in the next millennium.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
"We are in a revolution. But, it's not only in technology but also in culture, ethics, moral, religion, a lot of things."
SUPER CAPTION: Takanori Shibata, Senior Research Scientist, Bio-Robotics Division. Robotics Department, Mechanical Engineering Laboratory, Ministry of International Trade and Industry

It is not only animal-like robots that researchers are striving to create.

Honda unveiled its humanoid robot P-2 in 1996 after a decade of research.

At the time it left onlookers amazed by the seamless walking movement.

P-2 became the first robot capable of making decisions on its movement based on the surrounding environment.

These dramatic development in robot technology prompted Japanese officials to start off their own Humanoid Robotics Project.

Five (b) billion yen has been set aside for research and development in 1998 over the next five years.

Waseda University, a member of the project, made Wabian, a female humanoid robot, which can dance the mambo.

She can adapt to different terrain such as steps and hills, but is most comfortable on the dance floor.

Not only just walking and dancing, some robots sing and enjoy a good conversation.

Meet NEC's R-100.

N-E-C say that R-100 is the world's first robot with the ability to identify voices as well as objects.

It can listen to commands and change T-V channels using infra-red rays.

Led by the governmental project, six corporations and two academic institutions are aiming to apply the robotic technologies.








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