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Robotic domestic diva ready for hire

If you've ever envied the Jetsons for their industrious domestic bot Rosie, you might want to consider skipping on your next fancy vacuum cleaner and start saving your pennies. A fancy new domestic robot set to hit Japan will go for a whopping 1.58 million yen (a little more than $14,000).


Costly, to be sure, but the Wakamaru humanoid robot from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is apparently quite helpful around the house. The 3-foot, 66-pound bot can memorize your daily schedule and remind you of appointments, as well as alert you in the event of a break-in.

And while it may be an automaton, the little yellow bot has a distinctly personal touch. It identifies its owners using face recognition and relies on approximately 10,000 words necessary for daily life to speak to them (no word on whether it can discuss global warming). It knows its way around too. Matching the ceiling image and movement map in a house, Watamuru can recognize its own position.

Designed by Toshiyuki Kita, the automated domestic diva gets around on wheels and is powered by rechargeable batteries. Even during charging, the Linux-powered bot uses controllers and sensors to maintain communication and Internet access.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries says it will accept orders from Sept. 16 to Oct. 31 and plans 100 robots, initially for residents of Tokyo's 23 wards. It will select buyers by lot if too many people clamor for the gadget. And if Wakamaru gets so popular that everyone on the block has one, not to worry. You can give it its own name and adjust the volume of its voice.