Fujitsu opens up Linux-based humanoid robot

The electronics giant is releasing details of the internal architecture of the Hoap-1 to help programmers write their own code

Fujitsu is poised to release technical details on Tuesday of a humanoid robot that can walk on its own two legs.

The company began selling the automaton, called Hoap-1, last week. The 48cm-tall robot is shaped like a humanoid, weighs 6kg and has been designed "for wide applications in research and development of robotic technologies", according to the Japanese manufacturer.

Engineers from Fujitsu Laboratories will disclose the internal architecture of Hoap-1 at a meeting of the Robotics Society of Japan, which will be held at Tokyo University. By revealing some of the secrets of the robot, the scientists hope to encourage users to write original programs for it.

"Hoap-1 is the world's first attempt to sell a humanoid robot that users can program freely," Yusuke Yasukawa, senior researcher at Fujitsu Labs said last week, according to Electronics Times. Yasukawa added that Hoap-1 would be targeted at academics and researchers.

The launch of this latest robot comes only a few weeks after the Japanese government announced plans to invest heavily in the robotics industry.

Fujitsu believes Hoap-1 could be used to develop motion control algorithms, and to research methods of communicating between robots and people.

Hoap stands for "Humanoid for Open Architecture Platform". Fujitsu Laboratories and Fujitsu Automation jointly developed Hoap-1. The robot will cost the equivalent of around £28,000, and Fujitsu expects to sell around 100 models by mid-2004.

The software used to program Hoap-1 will run on RT-Linux -- a version of the open-source operating system that is designed for robotic applications, as well as data acquisition and systems control functions. Simulation software will let users test their code before letting it loose on Hoap-1.

Motorola claimed recently that it was developing a mobile Java-based application that would allow users to control a robot by using a mobile phone.

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