The success of Sony’s Aibo in 1999 proved one thing: The allure of robots is so powerful that even a clunky mimic of man’s best friend can fire the imagination and sell well.

Now roboticists are up to something bigger, or at least taller: upright two-legged robots that walk almost as fluidly as humans. This long-held dream has become reality over the past few years—mostly in Japanese research labs—thanks to increasingly powerful computers, smaller digital cameras, tiny high-torque motors, and sophisticated walking and balance algorithms. You’ll be able to buy a humanoid as early as next year.
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