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Mitsubishi Banking on Robot Companion's Charm

from Reuters

TOKYO - She may be a bit odd looking, what with a bright yellow face, silver arms and a positioning sensor on her head, but this tiny gal's got charm - even if it is chip-induced.

Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., say their new Internet-linked robot "Wakamaru," unveiled Thursday, has a friendly personality that could make her a much-loved member of the family.

"We have tried to create a robot you can have a relationship with, just like a human," said technical team leader Ken Onishi, who said that while none of her individual features are revolutionary, putting them together in one cute package was a mammoth task.

Able to recognize up to 10 people and call them by name, the 40-inch tall Wakamaru will approach and greet family members in a gentle, feminine voice when they arrive home and offer to pass on telephone messages or read out any e-mails that may have arrived.

In the morning, she'll glide to your bedside to wake you up with the news headlines and weather forecast, remind you of your appointments for the day and may even invite you to join her in some light exercise.

And if security at home is a worry, give her a call on your mobile phone when you're out and check the situation through a camera mounted on her forehead.

But this kind of companionship doesn't come cheap.

A limited edition of 100 robots goes on sale in Tokyo on Friday, at a cost of 1.575 million yen, with a monthly maintenance charge of around 10,000 yen.


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