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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 12:32 GMT
Robofish splash down in Tokyo
Fish AFP
These aquatic creatures keep a clean tank
The craze for robotic pets has dived into the aquarium.

So if you think fins and bubbles are fun, but you cannot be bothered with cleaning out the tank, take a look at what's new at the Tokyo Toy Show.

Jelly AP
The price of robotic pets is coming down
The Japanese manufacturer Takara has showcased its Aquaroid aquatic robot pet series. This includes the ultimate in low-maintenance fish, jellyfish, crab and lobsters.

They should retail for about 15,000 yen ($140) each.

"Robots have become the trend, the conversation topic," said Tetsuji Kawakami, from the research and development department at Takara.

"They become our playmates. They are not just something for the future, we can live with them now."

Huge market

The industry potentially is huge. Toy production in Japan was worth 5,890 billion yen ($56 bn) in 1998, with exports worth 353 bn yen ($3.4 bn), according to organisers of the March 16-19 show.

The new fashion was set last June by the Sony Corporation, which released a limited-edition, sophisticated robotic dog called Aibo.

Cat AP
Bandai's cat shows affection by flickering heart-shaped eyes
The metal dog was a smash hit even though it cost close 250,000 yen ($2,400).

Sega Toys has its Poo-Chi robot dog going on sale in April. This will be simpler than Sony's machine and cost just 3,980 yen ($38).

"We would like to sell about one million a year," said Yasunori Kanai from Sega's toy marketing department.

'Healing' products

And the rivals are straining to get off the leash. T-Dog 2000 and T-Dog Lady go on sale for 1,980 yen ($19) from the Toho Company at the end of the month. Another, i-dog, produced by the Maruka Corporation should appear in the autumn.

Cat Omron
Omron has a robot cat coming later in the year
These powered pooches will be able to chase a range of cordless cats.

Bandai and Omron will both have feline robots in shops towards the end of the year.

"These are so-called 'healing' products," said Hiroshi Matsumoto from Toybox, which plans a half cat, half dog robot pet.

"You can feel you actually own a pet. The cats can miaow. They are right for people who like cats and especially for people who cannot keep a real one at home."

Aibo AP
Sony's Aibo started the trend

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See also:

22 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Robo-cat makes purrfect companion
11 May 99 | Sci/Tech
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