A unit of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) and Japanese toy maker Takara Co Ltd. has developed a robot-like device that can be used as a remote control even while users are away from home the companies announced Monday. The device will make it possible to control home appliances such as VCRs remotely via the Internet using cell phones.
The “Flets Robot” device is connected to a PC, which is networked via NTT’s Internet services. Users can instruct the robot to send infrared signals to switch on and off home appliances such as VCRs, TV sets and air conditioners, using wireless Internet services on cell phones.
The device is shaped like a robot but cannot move by itself. Before leaving the house, users have to make sure that the robot’s hand, which is where the infrared signals come from, is pointing towards the home appliance they want to control.
Another feature is an eye that functions as a digital still camera with 100,000-pixel CCD (charge coupled device) resolution. This will allow users to check the inside of their house with snapshots that can be sent back as an attached file of wireless e-mail.
As the robot works only via NTT’s Internet services, the device is to be a premium gift as part of a promotional campaign conducted by NTT’s regional company, NTT West. The company hopes to attract more customers to its ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) service at a time when the market is becoming more competitive.
The campaign is expected to start this month and continue until the end of October. The companies plan to give away 2,000 units and hope to commercialize the robot in the second quarter next year at a price under 20,000 yen (US$168), according to Maiko Hasumi, a spokeswoman for Takara.
The product is compatible with PCs running the Windows operating system, and requires a Pentium 200MHz or faster processor, 64M bytes of memory, 200M bytes of free disk space and a USB (universal serial bus) interface. Its size is 160 millimeters high by 95 millimeters by 93 millimeters.
Takara will exhibit the device at World PC Expo 2001 at Makuhari Messe in Japan, starting Sept. 11, Takara said. The leading toy maker has been working on projects to develop robot-related entertainment toys since March this year. The “Flets Robot” will be a part of its line-up.
Its other products from these projects include “aquaroid” series, fish-like and jellyfish-like robots that move by solar power in a fish tank, and Bowlingual that allows dog owners to communicate with their dogs.
Takara, in Tokyo, can be contacted at http://www.takaratoys.co.jp/. NTT, in Tokyo, can be contacted at http://www.ntt.co.jp/.