It might have escaped your attention in the West, but those venerable toy companies Takara and Tomy recently merged to become Takara Tomy . Since the mash-up, the new company has been responsible for plenty of fun products, the latest of which is the world's smallest bipedal robot.
The JPY31,290 (£130) Omnibot2007 i-SOBOT was announced this week in Tokyo, well ahead of its projected July appearance in shops, and is a finely honed version of the larger Omnibot toys Tomy sold 20 years ago.
The droid is instructed through an infrared remote controller, measures 96 x 67 x 165 mm and weighs 350g. Thanks to an onboard gyroscope and the ability to store programs, the new talking Omnibot can get jiggy and run through some impressive moves. There's also a more expensive (JPY41,790, £174) version with a webcam stuck on its head for transmitting images by Wi-Fi to any wireless device.
Takara Tomy reckons toys like the Omnibot stand to do well in the, albeit contracting, Japanese toy market, which - according to Reuters - was worth $5.7 billion (£2.9 billion) in the last financial year. It also says that the shrinking population of Japan means it needs to produce toys that will appeal to adults nostalgic for their youth. So, we can expect bionic versions of Muffin the Mule and The Woodentops before long then. J. Mark Lytle