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CES 2011 Robot Roundup

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Tablets, TVs, e-readers, smartphones, and 3D glasses are great and all, but let’s face it: robots are the future. They’re metal, they’re shiny, they’re creepy, and they’re at CES. Before we left the show last week, we took a trip to the Robotics Zone of the South Hall to see what animatronic miracles were conjured up this year. Unfortunately, all the fuss over touch screens and telephones has lead to a serious shortage of crazy robotronic gizmos.

A message to the inventors of the world: we’d like to see a lot more useless, awesome mechanical creations next year. Until then, check out our complete 2011 Robot Roundup!

Paro, a therapeutic baby seal

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Nothing calms the nerves like cuddling with a robotic baby harp seal. At least, that’s what the makers of Paro the therapeutic robot have been banking on. Developed in Japan where animals aren’t allowed in many hospitals and nursing homes, this cuddly little guy is made to comfort and assist in therapy for the injured and elderly. Paro has tactile sensors all over it and responds to temperature, light, posture, petting, and touching by moving around and closing its eyes. Over time it actually develops its own character and recognizes familiar people through vision and voice recognition, reps told us.

It even makes sounds that are supposedly pretty similar to a baby seal, or so we’re told. We can’t verify the accuracy of this robot because none of us are crazy enough to go near an actual seal. Those things are dangerous. If you’re wondering about that pacifier, it serves a dual purpose. Not only does it make Paro look more adorable, it also charges the robot.

The video above shows Robovie interacting with people on the show floor. It seems highly unafraid of anyone. You can also watch it reject my handshake. Robovie is still a work in progress, but if you’d like your own, a mere $41,000 will buy you your first robotic buddy.

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