I'm Barry Petersen and this Letter from Asia comes from Tokyo.
When it comes to things they do well in Japan, near the top of the list just has to be robots. They are making amazing strides - so amazing, Japan may soon catch up with even Hollywood's best guess of what the future will look like.
You just had to love those guys in "I Robot" - the robots who did pretty much everything for humans. A bit of American science fiction that in Japan is fast becoming science fact.
The fact is - when it comes to developing robots, Japan is definitely dancing to its own tune, and the future is often on display.
In the land of the rising sun some amazing things can be found: from robot receptionists – looking and sounding, well, somewhat female – to robot baseball pitchers (working for far fewer yen than their human competition) and robot orchestra conductors, who may be a bit stiff but somehow get the job done.
And that next trumpet you hear might not be the work of either a musician or an elephant. It could be a robot.
None of this is commonplace yet, but even I think this is getting out of hand: I mean, who can replace a real news reporter?
Well, perhaps it can be done. Hey - don't tell my boss about this.
Then there are the play robots – from soccer robots and mechanical pets to Paro: a cuddly robot in the shape of a baby seal some senior citizens have found irresistibly charming.
Humans who play with Paro, says its inventor, Professor Takanori Shibata, are "cheered and motivated" and "happier."
The brave new world of robots isn't coming soon.
In Japan, it's already here.
is based in Tokyo and has reported on stories all over the world, including China, Nepal, Russia, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Somalia, and the U.S.
By Barry Petersen
Copyright 2005 CBS. All rights reserved.