Need a friend?: Artificial intelligence may remain stuck on the computer screen, but aritifical companionship seems to be rolling ahead.

Fujisoft hopes for a wide fan base with Palro, which stands for “Pal Robot.” The robot packs the equivalent of a netbook’s worth of brains into a humanoid looking form that stands at a less-than-imposing 40 cm in height and weighs just 1.9 kg. Videos of the device in action show that it can walk and talk, respond to commands and do a clunky version of a robotic dance. In effect it is a netbook with arms and legs that can also function as a cute companion. The roundish face with flashing blue lights might take some getting used to but the voice is human enough. Palro runs on the Ubuntu operating system so users can program Palro themselves, deciding what they want it to do. Considering the cumbersome look of its “hands” getting it to retrieve a cold beer from the fridge will be a stretch.

Palro includes voice recognition, complete with five microphones and mono speakers. It has a 3-megapixel camera, 1 gigabyte of internal memory and 4 gigabytes of flash memory and the Intel Atom 1.6-gigahertz processor beloved of netbooks computers. It has a USB port and B, G and N versions of WiFi. It runs on a 7.4V/2,800mAH rechargeable lithium ion battery. Fujisoft has employed 20 joints, a gyro-sensor, three-axis acceleration sensor and eight pressure sensors on its feet to give Palro the ability to walk around by itself without banging into objects.

Fujisoft is initially selling 1,000 units of the Palro to research institutions from March 15, but is aiming to market it to the general public after that. Of course, with a pricetag of ¥298,000, presumably it is targeted at hardcore robot lovers. www.fsi.co.jp/company/news/100201.html

Up and away: Casio is taking it up a notch, or several thousand meters, with its G-Shock series of watches. The new GW-3000 series is being plugged as timepieces fit for pilots. This includes claims the watches can withstand up to 15Gs of centrifugal force, more than what the average pilot is certified to withstand. The G-Shock series is also compliant with ISO2669, the environmental standard for aircraft equipment, and boasts the usual G-Shock tags of being waterproof and shock resistant. The watches are solar powered and automatically update their time via radio signals, which can be received in Japan, China, Europe and the United States. The watches measure 52.5 × 49.8 × 15.5 mm. The GW-300D and GW-300BD models weigh 148 grams with the cheaper GW-300B slicing that to 74 grams by using a resin body instead of the metal of the other two. In keeping with its aerial credentials, the GW-3000 series is marketed at the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. Despite the hype it is a fair bet Casio is marketing the watches beyond the pilot community to the usual G-Shock crowd of those wanting a combination of the tough and arresting with pricing of between ¥35,700 and ¥49,350 when they go on sale Feb. 28. The new watches come in a selection of flashy colors with a black body contrasted with bright orange or blue lettering. Alternatively there is a more restrained silver body with white lettering. All of them have black faces to aid in the contrasting.

Eye-catching the GW-3000s are, but perhaps a little too much so. There are three subdials for the likes of tracking what day of the week it is and stopwatch functions. Apart from these the edges of the watch faces are marked with the initials of various international cities, to aid in global timing. In the midst of all this information, tracking the old-fashioned second, minute and hour hands to tell what time it is where you are might be a challenge. www.casio.co.jp/release/2010/gw-3000.html

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