Robotic dog seeks employment

Now that Honda Motor's humanoid robot Asimo has several jobs, Sony Corp.'s dog-like Aibo is looking for work. Three Japanese companies unveiled a system that can wirelessly program the Aibo's movements at Business Show 2002, held this week in Tokyo.

The "Watson" system can preprogram the movements of several Aibo robots and then wirelessly set them in motion. It was developed by I Planning Corp., Graphic Research Co. Ltd. and Navigation Networks, who worked with Sony on the development of Aibo.

The robots' movements are plotted on a PC. That data can then be sent via a wireless LAN to up to 10 Aibo robots at a time. For example, the system can command the Aibos to start dancing at a set time and to stop three minutes later, and then to start waving half an hour after that.

"We could build this system because every Aibo has its own IP (Internet Protocol) address," Ryo Ishizone, chief executive officer of I Planning said. "You can program the Aibo's movements for as long as its battery lasts."

The three companies are hoping the system will be used for entertaining visitors at a company or hospital reception desk, and to attract attention at an event, Ishizone said.

The Aibo ERS-210 and 220, which are equipped with a wireless LAN card slot, can be programmed using the system, and the companies are planning to develop a Bluetooth-enabled version for the Bluetooth-embedded Aibo ERS-311B and 312B, Ishizone said.

The system costs ¥300,000 (US$2,415) excluding the robots, Ishizone said.

Honda Motor has been renting out its Asimo humanoid robots at ¥20 million a year. Currently the Asimo is working as a museum guide and a company receptionist.

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