Fujitsu introduces humanoid robot

Fujitsu Ltd. began selling Monday a two-legged humanoid robot designed to serve as a test bed for research into more advanced robotic technologies.

The HOAP-1 robot was developed by Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., the company's research and development arm, and Fujitsu Automation Ltd. Priced at around 5 million yen (US$41,400), Fujitsu hopes to sell around 100 of the robots over the next three years.

"It is meant for universities who want to do research on two-legged walking and robotic movement," said Scott Ikeda, a spokesman for Fujitsu. "They can use it for research, such as developing algorithms for more natural two-legged movement."

The robot looks something like a scaled-down version of Honda Motor Co.'s Asimo with its flat feet, wide chest and visor-like head. At just 48 centimeters tall and weighing 6 kilograms, the HOAP-1 is small enough to be portable. Featuring 20 degrees of freedom, the robot is controlled from a personal computer via a USB (Universal Serial Bus) cable.

In putting the device on sale, Fujitsu joins the ranks of Japanese electronics companies selling such robots. The most successful to date has been Sony Corp., which began selling its Aibo entertainment robot in June 1999 and put on sale its third-generation models last week. Honda Motor Co.'s Asimo humanoid robot, which has also been through several face-lifts, is not yet on sale, but has been lauded for its smooth and life-like movements. NEC Corp. also entered the market in 1999, along with Sony, when it put on sale its R100 Personal Robot.

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Martyn Williams

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