Shops in Japan started selling Fujitsu's new two-legged humanoid robot yesterday, designed to serve as a test bed for research into more advanced robotic technologies.

The Hoap-1 robot was developed by Fujitsu Automation and Fujitsu Laboratories, the company's research and development arm. Despite the price tag of more than £28,500, Fujitsu hopes to sell around 100 of the robots over the next three years.

"It is meant for universities that want to research two-legged walking and robotic movement," said Scott Ikeda, a spokesman for Fujitsu. "They can use it for research, such as developing algorithms for more natural two-legged movement."

The robot looks something like a scaled-down version of Honda's Asimo with its flat feet, wide chest and visorlike head. At just 48cm tall and weighing 6kg, the Hoap-1 is small enough to be portable. The robot has been given 20 degrees of freedom but can be controlled by PC users via a USB (universal serial bus) cable.

Fujitsu is one of a growing number of Japanese electronics companies selling such robots. The most successful of these to date has been Sony, which began selling its Aibo entertainment robot in June 1999 and put on sale its third-generation models last week.

Honda's Asimo humanoid robot, which has also been through several facelifts, is not yet on sale but has been lauded for its smooth and lifelike movements. NEC also entered the market in 1999, along with Sony, when it launched its R100 Personal Robot.