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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Robo-cat is out of the bag
NeCoRo: Only 5,000 will be up for sale (AP)
NeCoRo: Only 5,000 will be up for sale
The robotic menagerie just gets bigger and bigger.

In the wake of Sony's groundbreaking robot pet, Aibo, have come many copydogs and copycats.

The latest is called NeCoRo, which is derived from the Japanese for cat.

But in this war between cats and dogs, this mechanical feline is at a serious disadvantage. It cannot walk, and, like most household cats, it does not respond to commands or perform tricks.

Individual contact was our priority

Toshihiro Tashima, Omron
This is of little concern to the maker, Omron, which has concentrated on creating a robot that will give emotional feedback with feline sounds and movements, such as purring when stroked.

"Individual contact was our priority," said Toshihiro Tashima, head of Omron's e-pet project, at the robot cat's launch.

"If you hold it a lot, it'll develop a gentle personality; but if you don't play with it much, it'll ignore you," he added.

Limited supplies

Getting hold of one of these furry creatures could prove to be difficult.

Robot cat on display AP
Robot cat likes to be stroked
Only 5,000 of the felines will be up for sale, and only in Japan, at a cost of 185,000 yen ($1,530) each.

This is almost twice the price of the latest version of Aibo, which can recognise 75 words and mimic human intonation.

By comparison, NeCoRo has a vocabulary of 48 different cat noises. It can mimic various cat actions, such as perking up its ears, squinting its eyes or stretching its legs.

It has tactile sensors behind and beneath its ears and on its back, where cats are particularly sensitive.

Tactile sensors

The cat also has fake-fur skin that expands and contracts with its various body movements and facial expressions.

The future development of NeCoRo is uncertain. Omron executives are watching to see how people react to the cat before deciding whether to pursue its development.

Last year, the company created a robot cat called Tama, which displayed six basic animal emotions.

Omron is one of its biggest makers of automated factory systems.

It is known for sensor technology used in products from factory tools to automatic tellers

Footage of the robot cat that purrs when stroked
See also:

11 May 99 | Sci/Tech
Robo-pup attacks toy market
12 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Sony upgrades robot pet
30 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Glimpses of a robotic future
19 Jul 00 | UK
Fight the good fight
22 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Robo-cat makes purrfect companion
01 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Robot pets get domesticated
11 Sep 01 | Artificial intelligence
Life with a robot dog
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