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American entry triumphs in Japanese robot competition

August 7, 1997

TOKYO (AP) _ An American-made robot has been named the fastest automaton in the East at Tokyo’s International Robot Grand Prix, beating out more than a hundred Japanese rivals equipped with the latest in robotic technology.

``Lancelot,″ as it has been dubbed by the University of Maryland team that created it, zipped around an oval track and touched eight targets along the way, defeating its hi-tech rivals at least week’s competition.

The tiny robot, the size of a toaster-oven, was an underdog in a field of high-precision machines developed in a country that takes its robots seriously.

Japanese TV regularly features robot contests which test abilities ranging from basketball free throws to household cleaning.

According to organizers, Lancelot triumphed in the ``robot lance″ category because it didn’t break down or have mechanical troubles like many other contenders did. One of Lancelot’s biggest rivals ended up crashing into a target.

The Maryland team also was praised for its deft handling of the robot via remote control, making small adjustments to Lancelot’s movements while it was whisking along the track.

``The Maryland University team was really enthusiastic,″ said Nobukazu Matsumoto, an event organizer. ``I think it was a great opportunity for exchange.″

The three-day event, which ended Saturday, was held at the International Forum in central Tokyo to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Japanese Society of Mechanical Engineering.

It featured some industrial heavyweights. A Honda Motor Corp. lab came with a six-foot robot that handled stairs with near-human grace, and Nissan turned up with a robotic moon-walker.

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