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Japanese Humanoid Happy to Work on in the Rain

Japan is a step closer to having an ideal worker who won't complain in torrential rain or on slippery floors as a company unveiled a next-generation humanoid Thursday.

Kawada Industries' HRP-3 Promet Mk-II, a 160-centimetre-tall (five feet, four inches) humanoid, walked on a slippery floor scattered with sand and held out its arms under a shower before media cameras.

"We have made a leap towards creating a humanoid that works in a real environment," the firm said in a joint statement with Kawasaki Heavy Industries and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

The white robot, which wears a visor and has a passing resemblance to a "Star Wars" Imperial Stormtrooper, also used a screwdriver with its right hand while leaning forward on its left arm, balancing itself just like a human would.

The robot weighs 68 kilograms (149 pounds) including the battery. "Our country is rapidly ageing and it is an urgent task to develop robots that can perform tasks only done by humans now," the statement said. "If a humanoid can substitute human functions, the entire social cost would be reduced," it said.

Kawada Industries said the company hoped eventually to put the HRP-3 Promet Mk-II to commercial use. Project manager Takakatsu Isozumi said the company wanted to target clients such as construction contractors by 2010, with each robot costing around 15 million yen (120,000 dollars) each.

"We want to increase the actions that this robot can do at construction sites, such as driving construction vehicles," he said. Japan leads the world's robotic industries in fields ranging from manufacturing to entertainment and security.

Last week Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said it would start renting out humanoids to staff front desks at offices and hospitals.


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