Robovie's Plastic Butler Bot Gets An Upgrade, Goes on Sale

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Just the other day we were giggling with glee at Robovie's diminutive MR2 companion robot. Now the company's trumped itself: Robovie's R-Ver.3 is out. He's taller, can cope with rugged terrain, and you can pre-order him. For real.

This chap is rolling out of the Advanced Telecommunications Research institute in Japan, with the assistance of robot makers Vstone, and he's in two versions, with slightly different designs. The main purpose of the child-sized bot is to be an assistive technology for the elderly, but he's also likely to get used in situations where visitors need guidance around a facility, and possibly even in health-care environments.

Inside that cute-as-a-button plastic shell, RV3 is based on a Windows-powered computer, with a specialist sub-board that controls the main robot functions and which is compatible with the same robot control and management software that Vstone uses for its smaller hobby robots.

But, truth be told, RV3 is far from a toy—wobbly as he looks on his wheels. The android is designed to be able to cope with rough terrain, and while he won't be off-roading in the desert, he can certainly manage uneven paving slabs, disabled access ramps and carpets and rugs. Inside his meter-tall carcass are enough servos to give him 17 degrees of freedom, 11 touch sensors, laser range finder for location, twin USB cameras and microphones, and a speaker. He's even network-enabled to engage with other robots and Net-connected cameras and smartphones. Lest all that make you still doubt the seriousness of this machine, which is as close to Caprica's Serge as all the bots we've yet peeped at, he's actually on pre-order right now for the very serious sum of $43,000. And, okay, that does relegate RV3 to being a toy for the rich and famous, kinda. But it does indicate that our lives will be roboticized sooner than you probably imagined.

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