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Who's afraid of a 13-foot-tall walking robot?

Hajime Research Institute

Hajime Sakamoto, president of Japan's Hajime Research Institute, is soliciting sponsors to help him build a 13-foot-tall humanoid robot.

If all goes reasonably well, the future will be full of friendly humanoid robots that that bake cookies, fold laundry, fetch beers, and clean up our messes. We'll likely think of them as unthreatening helpers. After all, most prototypes are unmistakably robots and aren't quite as tall as a full-grown adult.

That may change if Hajime Sakamoto gets his way. The president of Japan's Hajime Research Institute is soliciting sponsors to help him build a 13-foot-tall humanoid robot. A robot that big around the house might be better suited to make sure you (and your kiddos) do your own household chores.

The robot will be the largest humanoid robot in the world and capable of bipedal walking, the company notes. It will come with a cockpit, presumably so that humans can use it as alternative mode of transportation — or just to scare the daylights out of friends and neighbors.

Bipedalism, that is two-footed, upright walking, is hallmark of primate evolution that separates monkeys from early humans. Doing it is no simple task (just watch a toddler learning to walk). Designing a robot that moves around with human efficiency on two feet has been an ongoing challenge in robotics. 

A breakthrough came in 2005 when a trio of robots that walk in a human-like manner was reported in the journal Science. One was about as tall as an adult woman, according to the researchers, and all three were lauded for shedding light on the biomechanics of human walking.

That is, by building robots that walk like humans, we are forced to learn more about how we actually do the task. This in turn results in more human-like robots and could also lead to more life-like robotic prosthesis.

If the video below showcasing Sakamoto's 7-foot bipedal robot playing soccer is any indication, his quest for a 13 footer, and even taller bots, appears driven by an obsession with the "Mobile Suits" seen in the anime series Gundam

A 7-foot tall robot plays soccer.

— via PopSci

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John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.

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