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Sony's humanoid robot learns how to jog

Sony's 23-inch robot already knew how to walk, dance and kick a soccer ball. Now it can slowly jog.
Sony Introduces First Humanoid Jogging Robot
Sony unveiled QRIO, the world's first running humanoid robot on Thursday.Junko Kimura / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sony Corp.'s walking robot already knows a few hip dance steps and can kick a miniature soccer ball. Now, it can jog, a new trick that developers say is ingenious because it requires the machine to jump off the ground, even for a fraction of a second.

The new skills of the humanoid, developed by the Japanese electronics and entertainment giant's robot unit that makes the dog-like Aibo, were demonstrated to reporters at a Tokyo hall Thursday.

When an upgrade of the 23-inch-tall robot was introduced last year, Sony executive Toshitada Doi had said it might go on sale for the price of an expensive car. But now Sony has no plans to sell Qrio, which is short for "quest for curiosity."

Instead, the machine is being billed as an amusing "corporate ambassador" that can highlight Sony's innovativeness. Sony would not say how much it has cost.

In the latest demonstration, the bubble-headed, glowing-eyed robot jiggled and made mechanical jangling sounds as it moved forward on a table, bounced jerkily sideways and pivoted in a turn. It started with a slow walk, moved into an easy jog, stopped, then turned and begin jogging again.

While running robots are not altogether new, Sony engineers said their robot was a technical achievement because it smoothly simulated running. The breakthrough required sophisticated features in the robot's joints and a beefy central processing unit to keep Qrio's balance and manage delicate maneuvers.

Don't expect Qrio to enter any track meets just yet. It can move only at 46 feet per minute (roughly 0.5 mph), but that's more than twice as fast as its previous walk.

Running differs from walking in that both legs must be off the ground at the same time. That moment lasts four one-hundredths of a second for Qrio, and its jumps are just 0.2 inches off the ground, Sony spokesman Shinji Obana said.

Sony engineers also made Qrio show off a baseball pitch. It shook its head to signs from an imaginary catcher, then nodded before it plopped a tiny ball before laughing reporters. There was nothing like a realistic leg kick, but the point was to demonstrate that Qrio's metal hands can grasp and release objects.

"He still lacks control," said Yoshihiro Kuroki, a Sony general manager. "But we're working on it."