Home robots that tell you it's trash day, watch over tots, and give you pop quizzes?
They may not be as sophisticated or as agile as the droids in the film "I, Robot," but delightful Doraemon, perky Aibo and cuddly Ifbot have loads of "cute" appeal going for them.
The three companion robots, alongside five other mechanical wonders, will be getting star treatment at the 2006 Super Robot Dream Exposition in Taiwan, said Victor Chou, general manager of show organizer Kuei Jung Exhibition Co. Ltd.
"We hope that this exhibition will help promote robotics technology and mechanical engineering in Taiwan," Chou said at a news conference yesterday. "Taiwan is one of the world's top consumer electronics producers. Unfortunately, we have not really done much in the field of robotics."
Japan specializes in the development of robots that double as household helpmates and companions while the U.S. produces droids for its space programs, he continued.
"Germany dominates too in the field of industrial robotics," Chou said. "Taiwan's innovators can penetrate this market by entering into partnerships with the world's robotics specialists, or by developing software programs and producing hardware designs for such projects. The opportunities are certainly there."
The first leg of the 2006 Super Robot Exposition will take place on the seventh floor of the Shinkong Mitsukoshi Department Store A8 in the Hsinyi district from January 6 to February 12, 2006. Similar exhibitions will be held in Taoyuan, Taichung, and Kaohsiung.
Admission costs NT$200 for adults, and NT$180 for students and the elderly.
One of the robots that will be featured at the show is Ifbot, a home companion designed to amuse, stimulate, motivate and delight older people bored out of their wits.
Developed in Japan, Ifbot is programmed to give pop quizzes, sing, and even make inquiries about its owner's health.
And who could resist Doraemon, the blue cat-like robot who is a buddy to Nobita Nobi? Loved by millions of people all over the world, this ear-less cat - his ears were devoured by rats - is able to speak 750 different words and phrases in Japanese, and can recognize voice commands.
The product of Bandai's Real Dream Doraemon Project, Doraemon the Robot can understand pre-set commands, and even responds to touch. Gently massage his head - one of the built-in sensors is installed there - and the cuddly robot will respond with a giggle.
"If you say a certain command, Doraemon the Robot will also show his fourth-dimensional pocket," a robot handler said. (In the cartoon show, Doraemon pulls various tools out of his pocket to save his trouble-prone friend Nobita including small propellers and a time machine.)
Sony's fifth-generation AIBO is also guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser at the robot exposition.
According to Sony, AIBO's skill level can improve through encouragement from its owner.
"By praising AIBO for kicking the ball well, it will continue to play with the ball. Repeated practice with the ball will improve its skill level and it will learn new tricks," the consumer electronics vendor said.
If you scold your robotic pet for playing with its ball, it will stop showing as much interest in it.
"With AIBO's back sensors, it is possible to adjust AIBO's schedule to coincide with your daily routine. You can schedule your usual bed time and AIBO will go to sleep on its charging station until it's time to get up," the company said.
AIBO can also use its alarm to wake you up in the morning.
The robotic pet's mapping feature enables it to track the locations of its favorite toys - the AIBOne and the Pink Ball - much faster than previous models, Sony added.
Visual Pattern Recognition Technology also enables AIBO owners to issue commands using 15 cards from "dance" to "take photo."
AIBO also has an independent streak in him. Whenever he needs some juice, he starts self-charging if his battery level gets lower than 40 percent.
The other robots that will be featured at the show include home companion robot Nuvo, and the KHR-1 humanoid robot from Kondo of Japan. The latter can walk, run, do push-ups, and even do back and forward somersaults.