A 'new' security robot announced by leading Japanese company Hitachi actually appears to be a four year-old American-developed product, a US robotics company has claimed.
"We have no problem with customers using our robots to prototype; that's what they're for. But it would be misleading to portray robot technologies we've sold commercially for four years as something new and revolutionary," said Dr William Kennedy, co-founder of MobileRobots.
The US company confirmed that Hitachi had purchased Pioneer-DX robots from its agent in Japan. MobileRobots also published an image on its website showing how its robot would fit inside the spherical white shell of Hitachi's invention.
Parts of the two products appear extremely similar, although the Hitachi robot features a camera mounted on a mast which is not present in MobileRobots' images of its product.
MobileRobots did not say whether Hitachi might have rewritten the controlling software of the robot, or added additional hardware.
Hitachi's half-metre tall robot attracted considerable attention from media and blogs after the company announced it on 7 March.
The Japanese company "plans to sell the new robot to security companies and building management firms, among other businesses", the Mainichi Daily News reported, suggesting that this would happen within three years.
vnunet.com was unable to locate Hitachi public relations representatives for their reaction by press time.
Five major Japanese TV stations plan to let viewers download television shows for free, in the hope of attracting internet users to watch traditional TV broadcasts.
The programmes will be available from a new website, starting as soon as next month, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported yesterday.
The broadcasters hope to fund the downloads from advertising on the website. Leading local advertising agencies, including Dentsu Inc, will hold a substantial stake in a new company formed to operate the site.
Some Japanese TV shows are already being distributed online, but broadcasters hope that the new site will make it easier for viewers to find programmes, and encourage the return of viewers who have abandoned terrestrial TV broadcasts in favour of the internet.
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