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Meet Jeeves the Robot

Eager to please, and only comes up to your knees...
Written by CNET Networks, Contributor

Eager to please, and only comes up to your knees...

Fujitsu has begun sales in Japan of a Windows-powered robot which it hopes can become the foundation of more sophisticated household robots in the future. Called Maron-1, the $2,500 (£1,582) machine runs on the Windows CE 3.0 operating system and is only being sold to companies who can add more specialised functions, for everything from home security to simple butler-type tasks. At 5.5kg and 36cm tall, Maron-1 weighs about twice as much as a notebook computer and comes up to an average person's knees. It moves about on three small wheels that can "traverse door saddles and other minor surface gradations", according to the company. It has a built-in mobile phone, through which it can remotely receive instructions. For example, the owner can move the robot towards the living-room VCR where it can act as a remote control, sending signals from its infra-red transmitter to record shows, or to control other household appliances such as heaters. Tokyo-based Fujitsu also said that Maron-1 comes with proximity sensors that allow it to detect movement. Should there be an intruder, it can sound an alarm and alert the owner by mobile phone. The robot also comes with "eyes" - two cameras that can transmit images via picture-enabled mobile phones. Maron-1 runs for 10 hours on a single charge. A condominium developer in Oita Prefecture in southern Japan will be the first commercial user of Maron-1. Fujitsu said that if sales in Japan are successful, it may consider selling the machine overseas. "Eventually, Fujitsu believes that Maron-1 will find wide use in homes, small businesses, and nursing or assisted-living facilities as a valuable assistant in everyday life," said the company on its website. Two years ago, Fujitsu began selling Hoap-1, a taller, more humanoid robot based on the open source Linux operating system. Japan's high-tech firms believe that household robots will drive the next wave of consumer spending on electronics. The country's aging population and declining birth rate means that the elderly may have to rely on robots for care, entertainment and even companionship. Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has invested millions to nurture and develop the robotics industry within Japan and to make the country a leader in the sector. Honda's Asimo project and Sony's commercially available Aibo robo-pet are recent examples of this drive to make robots part of everyday life. John Lui writes for CNET Asia
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