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Robovie R3 robot wants to hold your hand

New humanoid robot is designed to help the elderly and disabled with everyday tasks. Cheaper than earlier versions, it still costs as much as a sports car.

Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Japanese start-up Vstone and Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, or ATR, have launched a new half-size humanoid robot designed to assist the elderly and disabled in everyday tasks like grocery shopping and navigating train stations.

Robovie R3 is the latest version of the robotic platform that the Osaka firm and Kyoto lab have been developing for several years. Last year, Robovie II was tested at a supermarket and could be seen making shopping suggestions to the woman it was accompanying.

R3 is built of plastic over an aluminum frame. It stands about 3 feet tall, weighs 77 pounds, and moves around on a wheeled base at roughly the same speed as a person walking.


It can roll over raised tiles designed to guide visually impaired people, a common feature in public areas of Japan. It can also hold a person's hand while moving and go up and down wheelchair ramps.

The robot is equipped with 15 servomotors and has 17 degrees of freedom (axes of movement). It has 11 touch sensors, USB eye cameras, two microphones, and two optional distance sensors.

It's being sold as a research platform. While incorporating significant cost reductions from Robovie II, R3 will still cost about as much as a sports car--some $40,000. ATR and Vstone hope to sell about 30 units this year.

One option for R3 is a special exterior designed by Tomotaka Takahashi of start-up Robo-Garage. The design makes R3 look a lot like Takahashi's Ropid humanoid, a cute little bot that can hop several inches off the floor.

With all the work that went into R3, it's a pity the machine's voice sounds like Mickey Mouse on helium. Would it be a hit with kids? See (and hear) it in action after the jump.

(Via Plastic Pals)