The Robots Are Coming!

Sony, Honda, NEC, Toshiba and many others are all working on robots to fill different rolls.

NEC has one that can actually taste food for you and let you know if it's good or bad for your health or if your fruit is ripe enough to eat.

If a friendly companion is more your speed, Sony's popular Aibo dog robot actually learns from spending time with you and may even act a little blue if you neglect it.

From Walking Chair to 'Gundam'

In a world where robots have long been more fantasy than fact, it's not hard to understand why researchers and engineers sometimes reach deep into their childhood for inspiration.

Nolasco says Toyota's walking chair robot -- the iFoot -- may look familiar to children of comic books and video games, as it's based on the popular Japanese sci-fi cartoon and video game series "Gundam."

"It's [iFoot] not too distant from 'Gundam,' except that 'Gundam' can do a thousand more things a lot better," explained Nolasco. "It's a way for some of our engineers to express their artistic ability or dream world -- I mean they grew up with these things."

In "Gundam," the warriors of the future pilot enormous bipedal robots or "mechas" that fly, fight and move with the dexterity and ease of a human being.

Nolasco says that engineers often draw inspiration from the same things that filled them with wonder as children.

"In a way, the people who came up with those things were seeing visions of the future themselves," he said. "That was their way of creating a technology whether it was just on paper or on film."

Nolasco points out that Toyota's robots are not the only ones inspired by childhood heroes.

Rumor has it Sony's bipedal buddy robot, Asimo, was also inspired by a popular cartoon and comic book robot -- Astroboy.

While the Robots Work, People Can Play

Whether they come in the form of small dirt-eating discs or massive two-legged tanks, the residential robot invasion is showing no signs of slowing down.

Though their help and companionship may be welcomed by some, at least one question remains: with researchers developing robots to do our mundane, time-consuming tasks and chores, what are we going to do with all that extra time?

"What we found with most of our research is that people are not using the time that the robot saves them to sit there and be lazy and eat bon-bons," said iRobot's Dussault. "They're using it to do other things that are more important to them than spending time vacuuming or mopping."

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