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EMIEW reacts to engineer Kenjiro Yamamoto during a demonstration in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, March 15, 2005.
(Katsumi Kasahara/AP Wide World)

Robot Pals
By Kate Tuohy

Wednesday, March 16—Forget about the pokey robots of the past. Pal and Chum have more energy than a couple of 6-year-olds.

Japan's biggest electronics corporation, Hitachi, Ltd., unveiled the two human-like robots at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday. They're called "EMIEW robots"—short for "excellent mobility and interactive existence as workmate."

"We aimed to create a robot that could live and coexist with people," said Toshihiko Hariuchi, the project's lead scientist.

The two EMIEWS—Pal and Chum—were built for the upcoming World Expo, a showcase of technology and ideas in Aichi, Japan.

According to Hitachi, they are the world's quickest-moving robots. Equipped with wheels instead of feet, they glide along at speeds of up to 3.7 mph.

"We want to make the robots useful for people . . . If the robots moved slower than people, users would be frustrated," said Hariuchi.

At 4.2 feet tall and roughly 154 pounds, the 'droids have a thick body and long arms. They are white and gray with smooth, bubble like heads.

With a vocabulary of about 100 words and an ability to avoid obstacles and clumsy accidents thanks to sensors, the overachieving robots have a future ahead of them. They can easily help in the house or around the office.

"We are planning to put it into use by further improving its functions so that it can co-exist and coordinate with humans as a receptionist or a helper for moving goods at the workplace," read a statement by Hitachi.

The robots still need training, but in five or six years they may be ready to take over your chores.


The Tech Museum: Robotics
Visit this site and discover the history of robots. Explore a gallery of modern artists and their work and play with a robot online.