This four-day conference is all about pushing the robotic envelope, building humanoids that are more like their creators and in the process teaching us a thing or two about human movement and speech. But what we really want to know is: When can we expect those creatures to become part of our day to day? Japan, that land of aging elders, is at the forefront of using humanoids as home-health aides, servants, and even sex partners. But French startup Aldebaran is most likely to swoop into American homes first: Its 2-foot-tall humanoid Nao, who is already reading aloud and recognizing faces and giggling into its cute three-fingered hands in robotics labs around the world, will hit the consumer market in 2010. No word yet on the ethics of putting Nao to work to pay off its own $15,000 price tag. — KATE ROCKWOOD
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