Japan’s top car maker Toyota will develop a humanoid robot designed to help factory workers and provide assistance in nursing care and rescue operations.

Toyota will announce details of the project in January and plans to unveil the as-yet-unnamed robot at the 2005 World Exposition in Japan, the business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun said.

The expo will be held in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, where Toyota’s headquarters are located, from March through September.

A spokesman for Toyota could not be reached for comment as the offices are closed for the New Year’s holidays.

Unlike Honda’s ASIMO, the world’s first two-legged walking robot unveiled in 2000, and Sony’s QRIO, the world’s first jogging robot revealed this month, Toyota’s robot will be used for “practical” purposes, the daily said.

While Honda and Sony have said they are not considering selling their models in the foreseeable future, the daily said Tokyo plans to market its workman robot.

Toyota aims to develop motion and sound sensor technology for the robot and then apply it to automobiles as a device to avoid collisions, the report said.

Toyota hopes the new robot can help factory workers conduct physically demanding work and provide assistance in nursing care and rescue operations, the daily said but gave no financial figures involved in the project.

To develop the robot, Toyota will work with Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp., a major maker of bearings and precision tools, and Yasukawa Electric Corp., a medium-sized electric motor maker.

The robot market in Japan is estimated at some 500 billion yen (4.7 billion dollars), the daily said.
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