Online Extra: TABLE: Japan Steps Up Robot Development

1999

March: Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (Panasonic) creates a robotic pet as a companion for senior citizens. A four-year test begins in Osaka's Ikeda City, where seniors who live alone are given the robopets.

May: Sony (SNE ) begins taking online orders for its $2,500, limited-edition Aibo robo-dog. Japan's allocation of 3,000 units is sold out in just 20 minutes. The 2,000 Aibos allotted to North America last a bit longer, selling out in a few days.

August: NEC Corp. (NIPNY ) unveils R100, a prototype home robot on wheels. Controlled by voice commands, it can recognize faces, greet people by name, and handle simple tasks such as recording TV shows.

2000

April: Tokyo's Waseda University, which developed a walking android in 1973, establishes the Humanoid Research Institute to accelerate up development of an intelligent artificial being.

Hitachi Ltd. develops a robot to serve as a walking aid for seniors.

October: Kitano Systems Project, headed by Hiroaki Kitano and funded by Japan Science & Technology Corp., unveils its Pino humanoid. About the size of a one-year-old child -- 75-centimeters tall (34 inches) -- Pino will play soccer when RoboCup launches a humanoid competition in 2002.

November: Sony starts mass production of its second-generation Aibo dog.

Sony unveils SDR-3X, a prototype biped. The diminutive humanoid will be developed into an entertainment robot.

At Japan's Robodex convention, Honda Motor Co. (HMC ) introduces Asimo, a pint-size but sophisticated humanoid, and announces plans to rent Asimo bots for service work by the fall of 2001.

December: Kyoto's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute starts sales of Robovie, a humanoid torso mounted on wheels, for use as a security guard and other mobile jobs.

Toyota Motor Corp. (TM ) kicks off research to develop a biped/home robot.

2002

The Japan Robot Assn. predicts there will be 11,000 service (nonindustrial) robots in use in Japan by 2002.

The Japanese government wants to begin tests of humanoids as medical assistants, caretakers for the elderly, and workers in hazardous situations.

Data: BusinessWeek

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