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Friday, Nov. 27, 2009

Robots rule the world at iREX

Special to The Japan Times

Some of the world's most cutting-edge robotic technology is being displayed at the International Robot Exhibition 2009, running until Nov. 28 at Tokyo Big Sight.

Organized by Japan Robot Association (JARA) and Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, Ltd., iRex is showcasing robots developed by more than 192 companies and 64 organizations, including several Japanese universities.

Established in 1973, iRex is marking its 18th anniversary this year. To commemorate that, several winners of the Robot of the Year award were shown, such as Omnibot 17μ i-sobot by Japan-based toy company Takara Tomy.

The robots on display range from the flash and fanciful — a sleek 188-cm tall Ping-Pong-playing model named Topio, from Vietnam-based Tosy Toys — to the the more low-key and practical, such as the robot tractors from AV-NS2 by Subaru.

While much of the tech at iRex was designed for industrial uses, many robots on display at iRex were targeted at assisting humans cope with both physical and mental challenges. These included Koba Lab's robotic suit, which assisted with walking and mobility; the therapeutic baby seal-bot named Paro from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Science; and Secom's My Spoon, a robotic device that allows the users to feed themselves.

The possible healing properties of robotic technology was also seen an immunity-raising panda robot dubbed Tocco-chan, created by School of Human Sciences, Waseda University. The developers claim that Tocco-chan helps prevent illnesses by stimulating human's innate immune systems with humor and a sense of camaraderie.

In light of Japan's graying population and shortage of caregivers, there will surely be a market for Tocco-chan and assistant-like robots such as those showcased at iREX 2009.

iREX 2009 runs until Nov. 28., 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. (last day until 4:30 p.m.) at Tokyo Big Sight in Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo. Entrance fee is ¦1,000 (¦500 for students) but free entrance is available to pre-registerants at www.nikkan.co.jp/eve/irex.

For more information, call (03) 5641-8321 or see www.nikkan.co.jp/eve/irex/english/index.html (English).

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