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Japanese Company ZMP Unveils Walking Robot
Mar 4, 2004
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Tokyo, Japan-based ZMP has unveiled a prototype of a human-shaped walking robot it said will be mass produced for sale at U.S. $4,600 by the end of the year.

The company, which has so far only made robots for research and rental, expects to sell about 3,000 of the new Nuvo model, which will be manufactured by another company. The manufacturer and sales network have not yet been decided, ZMP president Hisashi Taniguchi told reporters at a Tokyo hall.

Although other Japanese companies, including electronics and entertainment giant Sony Corp. and automaker Honda Motor Co., have created humanoids, the machines have merely taken part in events and are not on sale for consumers. Sony's Aibo doglike robot has been mass produced and starts at $780.

The 15-in-tall Nuvo walks on two legs, picks itself up when it falls, recognizes voice commands such as "advance" and "stop," and is controlled by remote from a cell phone. It has a digital camera in its head that relays images of its surroundings to a videophone from Japan's top mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo.

Its developers said Nuvo's design was kept simple with mass production in mind. While offerings from Sony and Honda resemble a child in their shape and movement, Nuvo has a more mechanical look because its head is lodged into its chest and its arms are steel rods with fingerless balls for hands.

But developers hope its price will someday come down to the level of a laptop.

"This robot is not merely for research. It is for commercial sale, and we want it to enter people's homes," said Kiyoyuki Okuyama, a designer who worked on Nuvo.

But costs cuts remain a challenge. The prototype version rents for $3,200 a day and costs $27,500.

ZMP also showed a $1,600 baseball-size security robot with 15 cameras to check on intruders through a DoCoMo videophone. (Associated Press)

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