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From Japan with love

There's been a spurt in what can be called 'personal robots' on the lines of personal computers or PCs. Commercially available personal robots these days do everything from household chores to assisting the disabled or just cuddling up in your lap to soothe your senses. Honda's 'Asimo' is one of the most impressive human-like robots developed so far. Among a host of other things, it can walk smoothly on two legs (once considered impossible for a machine), climb stairs, negotiate corners, kick a football, recognise voices, dance and shake hands. The advances made in technology in the process of its development have also helped the automotive industry.

'Aibo' (Japanese for 'buddy' ) from Sony is a cute little robotic dog, meant as a companion for people. It indulges in canine histrionics - wagging its tail and giving you an angry look if you take away its ball. It is so doglike that even real dogs were ruffled by its presence. Sony sold all the 3, 000 units in Japan within 20 minutes of its launch.

Scientists are now working towards nano-robots (less than 100 nanometres in size) which can be injected into the blood stream and sent on a mision to seek and destroy malignant tumours with unprecedented accuracy.

Apart from medicine, robots can now be found in areas like space technology where the robotic arm aboard the space shuttle and inter-planetary robotic missions are a great example, in exploration of difficult places like volcanoes, in mass production lines of the automotive industry and in helping find survivors in a disaster-affected zone.

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