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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Smarter robots from Japan

Japanese humanoid developers are competing in robot smartness. Toyota continues to develop robots that can play music. The latetest robot musician is a violin player that can entertain in cooperation with robotic drummers and trumpet players. Toyota´s Partner Robot Group will increase from 100 to 200 researchers in a new robot research center according to Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe.

Toyota has marked the 70th anniversary of its founding by announcing a long-term business plan that calls for the commercialization of its humanoid Partner Robots for jobs like housekeeping and nursing support. The Toyota Global Vision 2020 plan sees robots as a core business for the leading automaker, which also plans to make hybrid technology available for its entire fleet of vehicles.

Competitor Honda continues to develop its humanoid robot Asimo and the robot can now operate with people as well as other humanoids in the same environment. It is the first update since 2006 and the latest version will be serving refreshments at Honda's Tokyo HQ the next two months. Asimos working together will wirelessly share data such as battery levels and the closest unit to a given task. When Asimo's battery level falls below a certain level, it will return to its recharging station and power up. Each robot works autonomously based on the networked information. Another new function allows Asimo to estimate the path of people walking toward it based on their speed and direction and to avoid them by stepping back if necessary. Check out the Honda videos here.