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Revenge of the Daleks! Fujitsu develops high-tech home help

Revenge of the Daleks! Fujitsu develops high-tech home help

Just like the Daleks, it is unable to climb stairs, but a new home robot designed by Fujitsu is still certain to turn a few heads when it goes on sale.

The vacuum cleaner-sized Maron-1, due to go on sale within a year, can be controlled by a mobile phone, send video images to its owner, and perform tasks around the home traditionally associated with Rottweilers and housekeepers.

It weighs about the same as five bags of sugar and measures an almost cube-like 32x36x32 centimetres.

Everyday tasks this robotic home assistant will be capable of performing will include monitoring a particular spot in the home, such as an entrance hallway, where it can check for unwanted visitors, making adjustments to the air conditioning so the home is comfortable when residents get home from work, and alerting its owner if something unexpected like a fire breaks out.

The user can send commands from a cellular phone and watch the video signals from built-in cameras, or the robot can be programmed to contact the user via telephone when an event occurs.

It will even be able to operate remote-controlled devices such as televisions and stereos, although it is not yet able to rustle up a chicken dinner or serve it when you get home.

Maron-1 has been developed over the past two years by the same creative team that developed Hoap-1, a biped robot that is already on sale to universities and research establishments.

Hoap-1 is used as a test-bed for further research into robot technologies, but Maron-1 will be aimed at the consumer market and Fujitsu hopes it will be available within the next year for approximately $US1,625.

Remote communication with Maron-1 is via a PC Card wireless modem, which uses Japan's PHS (personal handyphone system) packet data network. The user can control the robot via a Java applet that, at present, runs inside an NTT DoCoMo cellular handset.

When the user is home, a touchpad with five menu keys and a centrally mounted 10-centimetre LCD on the front of the robot can be used for control.


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