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Shanghai expo robots start climbing the walls

A trio of humanoid ladder-climbers Expo 2010's Japan Industry Pavilion is delighting visitors to the six-month event in Shanghai.


We were unable to sleep for nights after seeing the giant robot baby that's set to rampage at the 2010 Expo in Shanghai, China. It turns out there are a number of robots at the event, so many that they're literally climbing the walls.

Humanoid robots in silver suits have been seen scaling the walls of the Japan Industry Pavilion, a private-sector showcase for Japanese technology. Never ones to pass up an opportunity to show off their robotics chops, Japanese participants designed humanoids that can climb the 50-foot walls by hooking onto the ladder-like structure, which is composed of white tubes.

The trio of "DreamROBO" climbers, each about 4.5 feet tall, are tethered to the pavilion's roof. It takes about 20 minutes for them to go up and down, which they do daily from 9 a.m. to midnight. They climb the walls in rain or shine, a determination that's meant to symbolize the dedication of Japan's "salaryman" workers. The robots apparently perform tricks once they reach the top rung (a fitting metaphor, perhaps, for certain executives).

The machines were created by 15 small and midsize firms in the Osaka region, including industrial equipment maker Muscle. If the robots' spherical heads seem familiar, their exteriors were designed by Toshiyuki Kita, known for his work on Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' Wakamaru household robot.

The Japan Industry Pavilion is slated to host another robot, Fujisoft's cool new humanoid Palro, in June. Though vertically challenged, Palro has a gift for gab and might steal some of the climbers' thunder. We'll be watching.