Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Robots dance through House of Science opening

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A dancing robot capable of impersonating Michael Jackson's dance move in Thriller is on show in Tauranga this weekend.

The Nao Humanoid Robot is 58cm of pure genius and the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is to come in the robotics world.

As part of the House of Science open days this weekend in the Tauranga CBD, robotic enthusiasts can see the little guy in action walking, dancing, taking basic commands and even doing tai chi.

Created by Brainary Interactive, the creation is the first and most basic of two other robots to come, named Pepper and Romeo.

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Nao takes five hours to charge, then has about an hour and a half of life before needing to be charged again, but it can operate while charging.

Nao has been already used across Australia and New Zealand in primary schools, special education and research. It is being utilised in the medical world too. The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne has used it to help with rehabilitation. The robot shows patients different exercises they can do within a specialised treatment plant.

The robot can also speak 19 different languages.

Retailing for $14,600, Brainary sales and marketing manager Jonathan Kingsley said the Nao robot was only limited to one's imagination and coding skills.

The next robot in the range, Pepper, is being used as a customer service robot in Japan and can last for up to nine hours once fully charged.

Romeo, who stands at 1.5m tall, is being designed for assisted living, which will be targeted at the aging population in the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand in years to come.

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House of Science director Chris Duggan said the timing of the robots coming to New Zealand was perfect to host them in their open days.

Ms Duggan said the robots were especially good for teaching and helping children with conditions like autism, she said.

"It's not just IT - robots are everywhere and it is a really cool way of getting kids engaged, not just with the science behind it but the social science, psychology and the ethics too."

Ms Duggan hoped by showcasing the robots, some of their sponsors would see their value and potential for Tauranga. The charity was also looking at getting funding to buy one as well, she said.

"The good thing about us, is we can provide a platform and a structure logistically, should we ever end up with robots like this. We would ensure all the schools would have access to them."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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