If we diplomatically ignore the almost-constant echoes and crackles it creates, we have to admit that Skype is actually a pretty useful tool that we'd never want to do without, but we never imagined it could be used to send orders to robots on the other side of the planet.

Admittedly, it's hard to imagine why it might be necessary to remotely control a toy robot to this extent, but that's exactly what Skyplen from Systec Akazawa does. The proof of concept uses the company's Plen kit robot and a Skype connection at both ends.

Wiimote possibility

Skyplen takes input from anything from a mobile phone to a Wiimote controller and translates it into a Skype text message that gets sent to the remote PC. The machine then uses a Bluetooth connection to pass on the good word to the 23cm robot.

The ¥262,500 (£1,155) metal man can already do plenty out of the box, including roller skating, skateboarding and the de rigueur robotic dance moves, so what could be more natural than asking him to get busy from afar?