The pieces are all slowly coming together.

While the more underground hobbyists concentrate on getting the bodies of our future robot companions looking (and feeling) as realistic as possible for deeply personal reasons probably rooted in childhood, researchers at Japan's Kagawa University have covered off another base - getting the/her mouth right.

The very kissable end result is little more than a rubberised, motorised mouth tube stuffed in a plastic box with a "nasal cavity" on top to aid realistic sound formation, but at least it shows we're finally moving forwards toward the dream of a fully realistic humanoid that could be programmed to love even us.

MOUTH ON: Strategically balance a wig on top and you'd have a friend for life

Now, who wants to start working on some eyes that don't look dead?

"Useful bottle-opening nose"

Another key part of the robotic life-companion dream is being assembled in Korea, where the country's Institute of Science and Technology has been working away on Mahru - shown in the picture above.

Mahru is the latest evolution of the team's dancing robot which is also capable of performing taekwondo manoeuvres, thanks to its/her ability to successfully mimic human movements - right down to being able to copy its creator's moves in real-time. You may soon have a dance partner.

According to IEEE's Spectrum, the test version of Mahru has already been kitted out with the ability to put some food into a microwave and bring you the steaming end result. We are literally about 10 years away from living the ultimate dream.

Big turn off

If you're finding it as hard to concentrate on reading this as we are on writing it due to having nine social networking tools open and blinking at you for attention at this very minute, you are not alone.

A study, reported by CTV, which deprived a selection of 200 students from their internets and Facebooks and the like for a period of 24 hours, found they felt anxious, frustrated and isolated as a result of the mother-brain disconnect.

We literally NEED all this nonsense.

Unable to concentrate without the numerous forms of stimulation that we all use to get us through the day without actually paying attention to anything, the poor darlings complained that they didn't know what to do with themselves with one student saying "I stared at the wall for a little bit" - before surrendering to boredom and taking some sleeping pills to help get through the rest of the boring tech-free day.

They should be grateful they didn't have to get through a Sunday in 1989.

Solar wind up

Japan's space program is about to unfurl what is being delightfully described a s a "space yacht" - which uses the power of the Sun to sail itself out into the very far away bits of the solar system not served by NASA's space buses.

The ship has been named Ikaros, which is a bit like "Icarus" only spelled intentionally incorrect for a reason - Ikaros actually stands for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun. They clearly thought up that acronym before even starting on the machine.

Ikaros

IT IS SAILING: Another thing Patrick Moore thought he'd never live to see

According to Switched On, the Ikaros craft will launch from Japan's Tanegashima space centre on 18 May, unfurling its sails once in orbit and using solar winds to push it out into space.

And it's not just space-wind-powered - the sails are covered in extremely thin solar cells to generate electrical power to keep the craft's MP3 player cranking out 'Telephone' as it whizzes away from us.

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