Robotic Lady Bug Cleaning Machine May Replace Traditional Hygiene Technicians in Japanese Service StationsS

This meter-high ladybug is a prototype robot cleaner but, if tests go well, could be the new face of washroom hygiene in Japan. As well as putting a nice shine to the bathroom floor with its scrubbing abilities, the light-up insect, which is being developed for NEXCO, has all sorts of other skills.

Hidden beneath the bug's silver skirts are obstacle-detection sensors, and a microphone housed in its antenna allow basic communication. Speech recognition software gives the bug basic conversation skills, and for those people brave enough to be seen in public talking to a three-foot high bug, it can report on local traffic conditions.

First port of call for the $3,000 Bug 'Bot is selected restrooms in highway service stations but, if all goes well, expect to see these giant insects being joyridden down the hard shoulder at 3mph by if I ever get close enough to steal one in hotel bathrooms and other public areas by March 2009. [Yomiuri Online via Pink Tentacle]