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They sing, they dance, they vacuum

Stand back, C3PO. Japan, a world leader in robot development and use, is at it again. Last week, robots that wait on tables, lift furniture, or serve as flower girls were unveiled at a preview of this past weekend's Robodex 2002 show in Tokyo.

A vacuum-cleaning robot was previewed by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which hopes to market it in a few years for $4,000. The test model, which senses dust and uses built-in sensors to keep from tumbling down stairs, still bumps chairs and misses corners when it cleans.

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Sanyo Electric Co. showed off a guard-dog robot with a camera that can be operated by a mobile phone. And Sony put its singing and dancing SDR-4X 'bots on display (above). The robots are not yet for sale.