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Hitachi 'collision avoidance' bot does a Ballmer at press do

Furniture-smashing robot rampage blamed on Wi-Fi

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Japanese industry colossus Hitachi yesterday unveiled a new robot boasting proprietary "agile collision avoidance" technology, only to see the cutting-edge droid crash violently into furniture in front of the world press.

AP reports that the diminutive 80cm robot, asked where someone was sitting, unexpectedly cried "I will take you there - follow me," in a "boylike electronic voice". The erratic machine then lurched away as though to pass between two desks, but "smashed into one of them".

Only a timely grab by a nearby Hitachi employee ended the orgy of mechanised violence, which could perhaps have reduced the room to matchwood and strewn the dismembered corpses of reporters and Hitachi boffins across the Tokyo subsurbs. However, the robot's minders were able to subdue the rogue machine by seizing special handles which had apparently (and rather worryingly) been mounted on it for just that purpose.

"We are studying what hurdles need to be overcome to make robots practical," said Hitachi researcher Takashi Teramoto, quoted by AFP.

"One characteristic we feel we need to ensure for robots is safety."

The machine in question is known as EMIEW, for Excellent Mobility and Interactive Existence as Workmate. This one was the mark 2, which has apparently been modified for greater safety than the original EMIEW, featured in this YouTube vid:

EMIEW boasts "interactive communication", "high speed mobility" and "agile collision avoidance", according to this pdf from Hitachi (page 11) so it seems that the desk destruction attempt must have been deliberate.

The Hitachi guys said the furniture-smashing robotic rampage had been triggered by heavy Wi-Fi traffic. ®

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