Secret Android Projects

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There are very likely many android projects underway around the world under the auspices of military organizations or spy agencies or just ordinary companies who want their work to be kept secret. Of course, I don't have access to secret projects but word may leak out.

Who are the likely groups?

1. Sony Corp. (Japan) Everyone has heard of AIBO by now. Sony announced the Aibo2 on October 12, 2000. This Aibo went on sale in Japan on November 16, 2000 for 150,000 yen. It will go on sale in the US on December 12, 2000 for about $1500. The director of Sony's Digital Creatures Laboratory, Toshi Doi, has stated that Sony will build a non-entertainment (humanoid) robot for domestic (in-home) use. He said they would begin this effort in about three years.

As predicted:  November 21, 2000 Sony announced their toy android.   Sony has built a small WALKING android which they call SDR-3X.  It stands about 20 inches tall and is about 9 inches wide and 6 inches deep. The first press release was on November 21, 2000. Another article came out in Infoworld. Four of these androids were on display at Robodex 2000 in Yokohama the weekend of  (11/24/00 - 11/26/00).

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2. NEC Corp. (Japan) NEC has recently offered the R100 personal companion robot. It is about 45 cm. tall and looks like an egg in an eggcup with wheels. BUT, it can talk and listen and can move around with its wheels and can also see with its eyes. What will they do next?

As predicted: March 21, 2001 NEC announced their toy android.  NEC has built a small personal robot which they call PaPeRo. Here is the press release. PaPeRo details are here. PaPeRo can understand 650 phrases and can speak 3000.

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3. IS Robotics offers a super-realistic interactive life-sized human baby toy. IS Robotics was founded in 1990 by Rodney Brooks and Colin Angle of MIT.  Last year they hooked up with Hasbro Toys to have them produce the baby-bot. It can be operated with a RC joy-stick control system. It has up to 60 servos and many movements. Perhaps they will do an adult android next.

4. Fanuc Corp.(Japan) The premier robotics company in the world. They MUST be doing something.

5. Fujitsu Corp.(Japan) Fujitsu is the leading computer company in Japan. At last year's COMDEX conference in Las Vegas, they showed a Japanese to English real-time speech translation system. Perhaps they are developing the intelligence first.

As predicted: September 10, 2001 Fujitsu Laboratories Inc announced their toy android.  They have build an 18" tall 13 pound android with 20 degrees of freedom. It is called HOAP-1 (Humanoid Open Architecture Platform 1).  It will go on sale in Japan on Sept. 17 for the surprisingly high price of $41,000 or 4.8 million Yen. Here is a story from Sept 10. And here is another from Sept 14.    (*NEW*)

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6. IBM Corp.(US) IBM was granted a record number of patents last year - in excess of 2700. IBM is also famous for developing products in secret.  What are they up to?  Or are they blind?  Or perhaps they don't want any NEW business.

7. NSA - National Security Agency (US) This is the most secret agency in the US. Their main facility is Fort Mead, Maryland which is about half way between Baltimore and Washington. The charter of the NSA charges them with the task of keeping 10 years ahead of technology. Therefore, if they obey their own charter, they must be building androids.

8. US Military - Army, Navy, Air Force The US Military is very interested in robotic fighting equipment. Apart from all the billions of dollars worth of satellites, they have many unpiloted airplanes - and who knows what else they have??? This is the only report I have seen. Remember that they built "Manny" more than 10 years ago.

9. Russian Army The Army is responsible for the defense of the country. That is a grave responsibility. It demands that they spend lots of money to develop the equipment necessary to defend the country - whatever it may take. Surely they have researchers who understand the tremendous potential of androids - and are doing something about it.


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