Kawada Industries and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have updated their 10-year-old line of HRP humanoid robots with an athletic machine they hope to develop into a menial worker.

HRP robot -- HRP robot -- HRP robot --
HRP-4: Menial worker of the future?

The blue and white humanoid -- named HRP-4 -- stands 1.51 meters (5 ft) tall and boasts the body of a track-and-field athlete. The robot's 34 joints are more flexible than those of previous models, and at 39 kilograms (86 lbs), it weighs 4 kilograms (8.8 lbs) less than last year's entertainment-oriented HRP-4C fembot.

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At the unveiling on Wednesday, the agile robot demonstrated a range of skills that may come in handy in the workplace, such as the ability to stand on one foot, twist its waist, strike poses, follow spoken commands, recognize faces, and track objects by moving its head. Its five-fingered hands are also more dexterous than those of its predecessors.

Kawada and AIST plan to begin selling the robots to universities and research institutions in January 2011 at a starting price of 26 million yen ($305,000) each.

[Sources: Nikkei, AIST]