With Home Carpeting Conquered, Robots Eye the Office

The Roomba has conquered the home. No more vacuuming! Now robots must tackle mail delivery and coffee-making tasks in the office. Enter the coldly-named humanoid bot HRP-4. It doesn't surf the net. It doesn't gossip. It simply serves.

Starting January 28, the HRP-4 will begin to serve man by doing just that: Delivering mail, pouring coffee and even recognizing employee faces. Buy in cost? "Just" $350,000!

Initial customers will be research institutions and universities, both of which will probably be able to write off HRP-4's incredible cost as some kind of science experiment.

HRP-4's assault on the workforce won't stop at coffee and mail, however, as Noriyuki Kanehira, the robotic systems manager at the bot's manufacturer, Kawada, says secretarial tasks are next on the ol' robot to do list.

Other office bots on the horizon include the PR2 (beer fetcher, can't harm humans) and ANYBOTS QB (teleconferencing). Both bots are also expensive! Who knew the robots' greatest weakness would be their price? [Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Image: BusinessWeek]