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Friday, December 16, 2005
Sony's Three-eye Robot

Robots may not be able to do everything humans can, but the latest version of Sony 's humanoid robot has something many people might find useful: a third eye.

The Japanese consumer electronics company's roller-skating robot, QRIO, has now been enlightened with an extra camera eye on its forehead that allows it to see several people at once and focus in on one of them.

At an exhibit on intelligent machines in the glitzy shopping district of Ginza on Friday, Sony unveiled the new and improved QRIO, which walked jauntily toward the audience, swinging its hips to music.

"Hello everyone," it said in Japanese. "I am Sony's QRIO. Let me introduce you to my new camera and improved arms."

It demonstrated its newfound flexibility by wiggling its fingers and waving its arms in a breakdance move.

The toddler-sized QRIO, which stands 58.5 centimeters (23 inches) tall and weighs 7.5 kilograms (16.5 pounds), then turned toward a group of women, responding to one who was waving to it.

"These new capabilities bring humans and machines closer together," said Katsumi Muto, general manager of Sony's Entertainment Robot unit.

"We're aiming for a machine that doesn't just respond to commands but also reaches out to humans."

The new QRIO also showed off its ability to identify blocks by size and color, lift them using its lower body and stack one on top of the other with its dexterous fingers.

"I wonder if I can handle this," QRIO muttered to itself as it carried out the task.

Standing in front of the successfully stacked boxes, QRIO ended the demo with a little victory dance.

Sony plans to start shipping samples next March of a camera module version of QRIO's third eye, which it calls a "chameleon eye."

Muto said Sony had no plans to market QRIO itself but would apply new developments into other products.

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