Robot pop star goes to market
By Staff and wire reports
TOKYO, Japan -- Japan's ZMP Inc. has unveiled PINO, a humanoid robot that the company predicts will be an essential lifestyle accessory.
PINO, its name and long nose modeled after Pinocchio, walks with difficulty and can't talk but he has already starred in a pop video and marks a new generation of companion robots.
ZMP's android is one of a series of Japanese robots designed for personal or household use that have recently been unveiled, including Honda's two-legged humanoid Asimo and Sony's runaway hit robodog Aibo.
Pop diva accessory
"Our robot is intended to be used as a part of everyday life, and we think it will play a core role in that segment of the market," said ZMP president Hisashi Taniguchi, whose firm is capitalized at around $100,000.
ZMP's stubby, 70-cm tall PINO is used to the spotlight. He starred with Japanese pop diva Hikaru Utada in her music video "Can you keep a secret?"
On Monday, the robot met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at a science and technology expo in Kuala Lumpur.
Taniguchi said he believed the market for personal robots was poised to grow and PINO was well placed to grab a large slice.
He cited a study compiled by industry bodies, including the Japan Robot Association that estimates the market for household robots will grow to about $32 billion in 2025.
Although PINO, which runs on a Pentium III 733 MHz chip, can now do little more than walk, ZMP hopes its friendly-looking design will break the ground for future generations of robots that can interact with people.
"It can walk and move its upper body freely, but at this juncture its walking capabilities are not that highly developed," said Taniguchi.
$65,000 price tag
He was nevertheless bullish about sales.
"We are forecasting sales of 50 million yen (about $400,000) this year and expect to make a profit," he said. That is about six PINO robots at a cost of about $65,000 each.
He cited interest from Japanese institutions as well as research institutes and universities in Italy and France.
ZMP's robot was originally developed by the Kitano Symbiotic Systems Project, which is financed by the Japan Science and Technology Corporation, a government-funded body.
ZMP said it would sell licenses to firms that want to market products based on PINO's design.
The first such tie-up will be with Japanese toy maker Tsukuda Original, which will begin selling dolls and models resembling PINO starting next month.
Reuters contributed to this report.
|Back to the top|