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Biped-robot marathon kicks off in Osaka

In what organizers are calling the world's first bipedal-robot marathon, foot-high humanoids compete in endurance test to run a full 26-mile marathon.

Vstone's Robovie-PC (front) races around a track. It's a matter of time before they beat the best humans. Vstone

Pint-size humanoid robots have started an endurance race in Osaka, Japan, in what organizers are calling the world's first bipedal-robot marathon.

In the Robomarafull event, hobby and custom-built robots will attempt to complete a full 26-mile marathon by "running" around an indoor track 423 times. The foot-high robots aren't exactly speedy, so the contest will be decided by which robots are toughest.

Robots that topple over have to stand back up unaided, but their human handlers must recharge the bots' batteries and servomotors. The athletes can either run autonomously, following the colored course, or be controlled remotely.

Five robots are participating in the race, fielded by universities and local robotics firm Vstone, an organizer of the event along with the Osaka government.

Vstone is known for its Robovie R3 humanoid platform, as well as a series of smaller kit robots, such as the Robovie-PC (seen above), for hobbyists.

The race is expected to take four days. It coincides with the 2011 Tokyo Marathon, which has its own high-tech runners. You can see live footage of the Robomarafull event on Ustream.

Last November, Panasonic's Evolta robot mascot completed a 300-mile trek from Tokyo to Kyoto to show off the firm's rechargeable batteries.

Vstone is hoping the Robomarafull will become an international event in the future, like the RoboCup is for robot soccer. No doubt human marathons will one day become a quaint thing of the past.