Japanese robots show off training for marathon

Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:07am EST
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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Japan's passion for marathons is bringing thousands out to test themselves in the grueling run each weekend. Now, even robots are getting in on the act.

The four contestants in the world's first-ever robot marathon opened their training session to the media this week in the western city of Osaka.

Three diminutive two-legged androids, the tallest one only 40 cm (16 inches) high, and one unit on wheels, dashed around an indoor track for a practice run in front of the cameras.

The race kicks off on February 24 and the robots will have to run around the 100 meter (328 foot) course 422 times to complete a full 42.195-km marathon (26 miles, 385 yards).

It will take them about four days to finish.

"Stretch to prevent injuries and aim to run the whole marathon," exhorted a robot named Robovie-PC, urging his fellows on.

The robots will be allowed battery changes and repairs if needed, but they will have to get up on their own if they fall over.

According to Japanese broadcaster TBS, all four robots were built by either Osaka Institute of Technology or a venture company called Vstone which specializes in robots. (Reporting by Olivier Fabre; Editing by Elaine Lies and Robert Birsel)