June 1, 2005
Roborior Is Interior Decor, Guard Dog
TOKYO -- It looks like a watermelon-sized eyeball on wheels that glows in hues of purple, blue and orange while gurgling with whimsical buzzes and rings.
The new Roborior gadget works as interior decor, but it's also a virtual guard dog because it has a digital camera, infrared sensors and videophone capability - to notify you of intruders while you are away from home.The $2,600 (280,000 yen) contraption by Japanese robot maker Tmsuk Co. and electronics company Sanyo Electric Co. (SANYY) can connect with the owner's mobile phone to relay streaming video taken on the robot's digital camera.
It can be remote-controlled with a handset to go forward, backward, left or right. The buttons also adjust the angle of the digital camera to look up or down.
Set the robot on "house-sitting mode" and it will call you on your cell phone when an intruder is detected by one of its three infrared sensors, designed to monitor all sides.
Roborior is set to go on sale in Japan in November or December, and there are no overseas sales plans so far.
It works with the third-generation videophone from Japan's top mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo Inc. (DCM) and connects to your TV so you watch the caller's face on a larger monitor. It hums its own electronic music to signal incoming calls and respond to remote-control commands.
Designed by Paul White, who has worked on Bjork album jackets, Roborior is meant to be a fashionable floor light that won't assert a pet-like personality common in other Japanese security and entertainment robots.
"This is a robot that can actually be used in people's home," Yuji Kawakubo, the official in charge of Roborior, said Wednesday. "It is inspired by jellyfish, a type of living creature that communicates through light."
Requests to sell Roborior - the name derives from "Robot" and "Interior" - are pouring in from department stores and interior goods-retailers, and the initial shipment is expected to number in several thousands, he said.
Roborior is handy for working parents who want to keep an eye on their children, or elderly people who can push Roborior's emergency button to call for help, Kawakubo said.
Tmsuk has already produced the four-legged security robot Banryu, which is about the size of a large dog and sells for $18,000 (2 million yen). But the company, based in Kyushu, southwestern Japan, wanted to make a smaller robot that can better blend into homes.
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