Sony's SDR-4X robot

Japan's latest inventions get jiggy with it
TOKYO — Japan's top technology companies have been cooking up some weird and wonderful things — robots that sing and dance, toilets that check your blood sugar and a computer mouse that sees beneath your skin. Who knows if anybody will buy this stuff? But Japanese companies have a reputation for cool tech. Among their latest inventions:

Sony has a home entertainment robot called SDR-4X. This two-legged creature can sing and dance, its 38 body joints giving it the flexibility to boogie. The robot also can be programmed to recognize and respond to 10 faces with personalized greetings. Sony is still tinkering but says it will be able to track its interactions with different people and change its behavior to match, based on previous exchanges. If you've been nice to SDR-FX, for instance, it will greet you warmly. If you've abused it, it might respond with sadness.
SDR-4X, almost 2 feet tall, can haul. On a flat surface, it covers 55 feet a minute. On irregular surfaces, 16 feet a minute. Sony hopes eventually to sell SDR-4X as an entertainment device. But Sony hasn't figured out how to price it or where to sell it.
Matsushita is displaying a house of the future at its Panasonic showroom in Tokyo, filled with innovative gadgets.
A special recycling unit automatically separates trash. A "clothing server" helps you pick outfits that match for special occasions and even dusts pollen off your jacket if you have allergies. A special washing machine can analyze your laundry, automatically adjusting the cycle for the dirtiness of your clothes.
The "Healthy Toilet" analyzes your excrement to measure your blood sugar and body fat and sends worrisome results to your doctor via the Internet. The "3D Ergo Bed" makes sure you get a comfortable sleep if you drift off while sitting up watching a movie. The bed detects when you fall asleep and automatically reclines.
Fujitsu has come up with what it calls the "world's first eco-friendly notebook computer."
Using starch from corn, potatoes and other plants, Fujitsu developed a biodegradable plastic that encases the new laptop. If the computer winds up in a landfill, microorganisms break down the plastic into carbon dioxide and water. The biodegradable plastic is eco-responsible in other ways, too. It doesn't emit dioxins or other harmful chemicals if incinerated.
Manufacturing the special plastic requires half as much energy as conventional plastics, making the production process more environmentally friendly, Fujitsu boasts. Plus, the biodegradable plastic is just as strong as the plastic used in regular laptop computers. But Fujitsu spokesman Scott Ikeda cautions: "Don't leave it out in your yard too long."
Also from Fujitsu is a computer mouse that can verify your identity by recognizing the pattern of veins in your hand.
The identification process works like this: An infrared light on the mouse lights up your palm. Your skin emits a black reflection, producing a picture of the veins in your palm. The souped-up mouse recognizes a pattern from this picture and checks it against other patterns stored in the system.
Fujitsu says it tested 700 people with 100% accuracy and figures it can achieve an error rate of 0.5% or less. The veins in your palm are useful for verification because everyone's are unique, and they don't change as you get older.
Fujitsu reckons the technology involved will be useful for identifying computer users before letting them log on; approving e-commerce transactions; authorizing access to restricted rooms; and checking attendance at online classes, seminars or meetings.