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March 4, 2009


Robotic systems continue to evolve, slowly penetrating many areas of our lives, from manufacturing, medicine and remote exploration to entertainment, security and personal assistance. Developers in Japan are currently building robots to assist the elderly, while NASA develops the next generation of space explorers, and artists are exploring new avenues of entertainment. Collected here are a handful of images of our recent robotic past, and perhaps a glimpse into the near future. (32 photos total)

Twendy-One demonstrates its ability to hold delicate objects by manipulating a drinking straw between its fingers at the Department of Mechanical Engineering laboratory in Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. The sophisticated robot has been developed by the university's team, led by Dr. Shigeki Sugano, in hope of supporting people in aging societies. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

NASA's Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR) is being designed as an inspection/maintenance robot for equipment in space. A scaled-up version of Lemur IIa, could help build large structures in space. The Lemur IIa pictured here is shown on a scale model of a segmented telescope. (NASA/Planetary Robotics Laboratory) #

Surgeons use a robot named da Vinci to aid a hernia operation, at the University Hospital Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008. The University Hospitals of Geneva opened the department for robotic surgery in 2008, where between 50 and 80 surgeons from around the world will have the possibility to train with da Vinci each year. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi) #

Spanish Queen Sofia King Juan Carlos, Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko react after watching watching a performance of a robotic suit called HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb), which can lift up to 30kg rice bags, at Tsukuba University north of Tokyo on November 12, 2008. (KATSUMI KASAHARA/AFP/Getty Images) #

Humanoid robots Wakamaru, produced by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, named Momoko (R) and Takeo (L) in the performace, take part in a drama for the world's first robot and human experimental theatre, written and directed by Japanese playwright Oriza Hirata, at Japan's Osaka University in Osaka, western Japan on November 25, 2008. (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images) #

An Explosive Ordinance Disposal robot places an explosive device next to a suspicious package during a demonstration conducted by members of the Special Operations Command Central Command Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit for participants of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 72, at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Oct. 21, 2006. (Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby) #

German Chancellor Angela Merkel poses with a robot called "Bruno" at the stand of the Darmstadt University of Technology during the third national IT summit in Darmstadt November 20, 2008. (REUTERS/Alex Grimm) #

Tokyo Fire Department's rescue robot transfers a mock victim onto itself during an anti-terrorism exercise in the response to a radiological dispersal device in Tokyo, on November 7, 2008. Tokyo Metropolitan government conducted the exercise with eleven organisations including Metropolitan Police Department. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A biomimetic underwater robot, named "RoboLobster", designed by Professor Joseph Ayers, is seen, Aug. 17, 2007, in Nahant, Massachusetts. RoboLobster is intended to be used to recognize changes in seawater and to locate and destroy underwater mines. (Robert Spencer) #

Two All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE) rovers traverse the desert terrain adjacent to Dumont Dunes, CA. The ATHLETE rovers are being built to be capable of rolling over Apollo-like undulating terrain and "walking" over extremely rough or steep terrain for future lunar missions. (NASA) #

A Toyota Motor Corporation robot is pictured at a showroom in Tokyo December 11, 2008. (REUTERS/Michael Caronna) #

Milton Hospital urologist Dr. Clifford Gluck at the controls of the da Vinci surgical system on April 23, 2008 in Milton, Massachusetts (Boston Globe/Milton Hospital) #

Japan's Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe sits with an assistive robot called "My Spoon" during a demonstration of health care robots in Tokyo on November 10, 2008. "My Spoon", developed by Japan's Secom is designed to help disabled people eat meals with joystick for controls using one's jaw, hand and feet. (AFP PHOTO/JIJI PRESS) #

Toyota Motor Corporation partner robots play instruments at the company's showroom in Tokyo on May 4, 2008. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai) #

A mock intruder, tangled in a net that was launched by the remote-controlled security robot T-34, lies on the floor while posing beside the robot in Tokyo January 21, 2009. T-34 users can see live images from the robot's camera and control the robot using a mobile phone. The robot, which has sensors that react to body heat and sound, can launch a net against an intruder by remote-control during its surveillance. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon) #

Farmer Wu Yulu drives his rickshaw pulled by a his self-made walking robot near his home in a village at the outskirts of Beijing January 8, 2009. This robot is the latest and largest development of hobby inventor Wu, who started to build robots in 1986, made of wire, metal, screws and nails found in rubbish sites. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

A man shakes hands with robot 'Berti' at the Science Museum in London, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009. The robot, a life size humanoid robot, is built to mimic human gesturing, and is on show at London's Science Museum from Feb. 17 to 19. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) #

NASA's K-10 Rover "Red", an experimental survey and exploration robot, uses its 3-D scanning systems during field tests in the "frost rubble zone" of Earth near Moses Lake, WA in June of 2008. (NASA/Ames Research Center) #

Thai and U.S. soldiers look at the display of a robot called "Big Dog" during the opening ceremony of the Cobra Gold military exercise at a hotel in Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong) #

Fair visitors look at the humanoid robotic system "Rollin' Justin" preparing a tea on March 2, 2009 at the world's biggest high-tech fair CeBIT in Hanover, central Germany. (RONNY HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Royal Marine poses for photographers with the Unmanned Vehicle Robot, Testudo, at the launch of the Defence Technology Plan in London February 26, 2009. (REUTERS/Luke MacGregor) #

Clara Vu, a software architect with Harvest Automation, tests "Mr. Incredible", a second generation robot prototype, in the firm's Groton, MA office August 29, 2008. Mr. Incredible is a container handling system for greenhouses, automatically moving potted plants into a widening grid as they grow and need more space. (Ellen Harasimowicz for The Boston Globe) #

A two-legged robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex, stands on during the Digital Content Expo 2008 in Tokyo, Japan on October 23, 2008. (Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images) #

A student of the Tokyo Institute of Technology displays a prototype security robot "bino3" during a demonstration at a security show in Tokyo on March 3, 2009. The bino3 has four "eyes", which are two wide-angle stereo camera lenses and two tele-photo stereo camera lenses which can follow an subject or intruder smoothly. (AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO) #

Vince Martinelli, an account manager at Kiva Systems, right, checks packages on the "pods", or shelves with dummy merchandise as robots run through a demonstration of an inventory check at the company's "demo warehouse" used to show their warehouse automation robots in action. (Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe) #

Matthew W. Fisher with Hanson Robotics makers of conversational, character robots holds up a synthetic face to show how light and easy it is to move and show human expressions in Boston. MA on May 15th, 2007. (David L. Ryan/Boston Globe) #

A Navy Talon 3B robot approaches a claymore land mine on a sand dune during a training exercise at a training range in Djibouti, Africa, on April 14, 2005. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians from Mobile Unit 4 operate the robot from safe locations through the use of monitors and video equipment attached to the robot. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Robert R. McRill, U.S. Navy) #

Mental commitment robotic baby seals named "Paro" are recharged at robot exhibition Robo Japan 2008 in Yokohama, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008. The 350,000 yen (US$3,480) Paro, a cooing baby harp seal robot fitted with sensors beneath its fur and whiskers, is developed by Japan's Intelligent System Co, to soothe patients in hospitals and nursing homes. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye) #

Robots work on an Iranian made Samand car at the Iran Khodro auto plant, west of Tehran, on September 30, 2008. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images) #

CEO of Intel Craig R. Barrett, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and German Chancellor Angela Merkel react to a robotic arm during the opening ceremony of the world's biggest high-tech fair, the CeBIT, in Hanover on March 2, 2009. (NIGEL TREBLIN/AFP/Getty Images) #

The MSI produced robot named "Rich" demonstrates giving a tour walking down a garden trail in the Grand Hills apartment showroom of the Far Glory property company in Linkou, Taipei County, Taiwan on October 18, 2008. (REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN) #

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover in the course of its assembly, before additions of its arm, mast, laboratory instruments and other equipment, seen in August of 2008. Its six wheels are half a meter (20 inches) in diameter. The deck is 1.1 meter (3.6 feet) above the ground. The MSL rover is being assembled and tested for launch in 2011. (NASA/JPL-Caltech) #