AOMORI, Japan (AFP) — Cabinet ministers from the world's biggest economies who gathered in Japan for grim talks on energy security have one tiny thing to celebrate -- the world's smallest humanoid robot.
The Japanese hosts plan to send all 11 ministers special editions of the 16.5-centimetre (half-foot) robot after wowing them with the toy at a dinner Saturday.
"With this, you won't forget about me," Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari said to laughter at the dinner, according to an official from the robot's maker Tomy Co. Ltd. who was present.
The interest in the "i-Sobot" seemed unabated Sunday, with Canadian Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn stopping by a desk set up by Tomy for the energy talks in the northern Japanese city of Aomori.
He picked up the tiny robot and dubbed it, "my new friend."
The minister, who has two children, said he himself would play with it "all the time."
"With this on my desk... as I solve government problems, I'll use the i-Sobot," he told AFP.
Japan will send the robots commemorating the Aomori meeting to ministers attending from the Group of Eight industrial powers plus India, China and South Korea.
The technology-loaded robot, whose special edition is black and speaks English, is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's smallest mass-produced humanoid.
The i-Sobot is able to make 200 physical movements, including somersaults and other complex acrobatics, speaks 180 words and responds to verbal commands.
"We think this represents the unique Japanese culture of cartoons and animated films that consider robots to be a 'buddy,'" Tomy spokeswoman Mei Kudo said.
"Rather than being a machine showcasing cool technology, it is a comical character that lies down and scratches its bottom," she said.
When Tomy launched the robot, the company said it needed to reach out to adults and lift the barriers between toys and high-tech products.
Tomy has shipped 20,000 units in Japan and another 26,000 overseas since its October 2007 launch. It is priced at about 30,000 yen (285 dollars).
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