Next time you're grumbling about having to do a few household chores, just make sure your thoughts don't turn to Japan and the exceptionally unfair fact that almost everyone there now has their own home-help robot.

Well, not exactly, but Tokyo University's newest research robot points to a future where something similar may become reality.

Laundry helper

The mechanical maid is codenamed 'AR' and is a joint development of the college's Information and Robot Technology Research Initiative and carmaker Toyota.

AR's main trick is its ability to recognise laundry, pick it up and take it to a washing machine. Other robots typically have trouble with anything that isn't hard and of a regular shape.

New broom

The machine can also move furniture out of the way while using a brush to sweep the floor.

Although it's still some way off being able to actually run a household, AR suggests that there's more to domestic robots than just disc-like beetling vacuum cleaners.