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New Japanese humanoid invites grown-ups to play July 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Gadgets.

One of Japan’s top toy companies said Friday that it would launch small humanoids for adults to play with, hoping to tap a new market as the developed world gets older.

The 16.5-centimeter (half-foot) tall robot, named i-Sobot, is able to make some 200 physical movements, including somersaults and other complex acrobatics, speaks some 180 words, and responds to verbal commands. Tomy Co. Ltd. said that the target audience was men in their 40s and above.

“As the number of children decreases, toy makers, if they want to maintain their market, have to reach out to adults and lift the barriers between toys and high-tech products,” company official Kimi Watanabe told a news conference. There are lots of adults who dream of having a real robot but don’t have the means, knowing it would cost them several hundred-thousand yen,” or thousands of dollars, he said.

The i-Sobot will go on sale in Japan at a cost of 30,000 yen ($250) October 25. An English-speaking version will go on sale shortly afterwards in the United States. The company chose to make the Japanese-speaking robot white and the US version black. A European launch is anticipated next year. Tomy hopes to sell 50,000 units in Japan and 300,000 worldwide.

The robot will be the first product sold with Sanyo Electric Co.’s next-generation rechargeable Eneloop battery “in hope of sending an ecological message and reducing the use of disposable batteries,” Watanabe said.

Japan has one of the world’s oldest populations as more seniors live longer and many young people decide that starting families would impose a burden on their careers or lifestyles.

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