TOKYO – Lost in a store? Let Japanese electronics maker Fujitsu's (search) robot help guide your way.
Equipped with voice recognition (search) capabilities, cameras and sensors, the 4-foot tall robot on wheels will go on sale for 6 million yen ($54,000) each in Japan in November — for just such a purpose.
Tokyo-based Fujitsu plans to sell about 20 or 30 of the robots, called "enon" (search) (pronounced EH-nohn), which stands for "exciting nova on network," and already has received 10 orders. The price tag covers just the machine, and software programs cost extra. Fujitsu refused to estimate software costs.
Enon can find itself around in an office or store, based on a map programmed inside its computer brain, move at a slow pace of up 1.86 miles an hour, and picks up things as heavy as 1.1 pounds. Its mechanical arms have paws at the end that can grip objects.
"We hope that robots like this will be able to help people in an aging society where the population is declining," Tokuichi Shishido, director at Fujitsu Frontech (search), said Tuesday.
In a demonstration, the round-headed robot greeted reporters, saying in a female voice, "Hello. Welcome to Fujitsu. I'm enon. Are you a reporter?"
And then it led the crowd down the hallway to a room although it failed to see a basket with pamphlets it was supposed to pick up. In another demonstration, it rolled away a few feet and placed the box on a table. But it knocked over the table a couple of times.
Japan boasts one of the most advanced robot industries in the world. Industrial robots are widely used in plants, including those of automakers Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. Toyota and Honda Motor Co. are also developing robots for entertainment and robotics research.
Fujitsu is among a burgeoning number of Japanese makers counting on a market for service robots like enon, where software solutions will drive the business rather than sophisticated machinery.
Fujitsu foresees the worldwide service robot market as growing to 100 billion yen ($907 million) by 2010. It wants enon to become a mass-produced product in a year or so, and hopes to lower its price to 2 million yen ($18,000).