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Citizen's robot army

Well, more like soccer players. Still, the Eco-drive bots move "as long as there is light or until breaking," the watch maker says.

We run till the sun implodes
Michael Kanellos/CNET Networks

CHIBA, Japan--Citizen's micro robots come in peace.

The watch company, which also makes a wide variety of industrial-grade precision components, has come up with a couple of robot kits designed to get kids interested in the field.

The Eco-drive robots--the three robots with faces and watches on top in that first picture--are powered by gears and mechanisms in the watch. Although the watch is turning the gears of the robot, it continues to function normally. The whole thing is powered by a solar panel.

The system will work "as long as there is light or until breaking," Citizen said in the poster accompanying the robots. Citizen showed them off last week at Ceatec, the large trade show here.

robot, robot oi, oi, oi Michael Kanellos/CNET Networks

The other robots, meanwhile, are guided by an infrared beam coming from above. (The infrared beam, in turn, is controlled by someone sitting at a computer or by a preprogrammed application. Take your pick.)

As depicted here, the infrared beam can have the robots chasing a beam of regular light--in effect, playing soccer. Right now, these two guys in the second picture--about an inch and a half tall--are getting in each other's way, but they move fairly fast. There were five in all scurrying about.

You just can't get enough of robots at this show, or in Japan for that matter. Very few companies actually have enjoyed success with their anthropomorphic robots, but they continue to crank them out, hoping that some day a hit will emerge. NEC showed off its PaPeRo robot again, a cute little number that talks to you, delivers weather reports and warns you when burglars enter the house. (Security systems are huge sellers in Japan, although it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.). Vstone also showed off the Robovie-R, which is similar to PaPeRo but taller.