Now you can buy robot vacuum cleaners, robot pets, robot pet-minders, and even fish-shaped robots (for your underwater archeological research), not to mention specialized robots for explosive ordnance disposal. Um, that last one is presumably disposable.
But wait, that's not all! Make sure you add bloodstream robots to your gift list this holiday season.
A microscopic swimming robot unveiled by Chinese scientists could eventually be used for drug delivery or to clear arteries in humans, say researchers.
The 3 millimetre-long triangular machine was constructed by Tao Mei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, and colleagues from the University of Science and Technology of China.
The craft is propelled using an external magnetic field which controls its microscopic fins. The fins are made from an alloy that contracts in response to application of the field. Applying the field quickly makes the tiny submersible paddle forwards and gradually switching the field off slowly moves the fins back to their original position.
It is possible to control the speed of the craft by altering the resonant frequency of the magnetic field. The next stage is to build a robot with fins that respond to different magnetic field resonances. This would enable an operator to control the fin separately and steer the robot around.
Okay, at 3 mm, it's not quite small enough for your blood vessels yet, but that may not be far away...
So far the Chinese scientists have tested a swimming device measuring 3mm x 2mm x 0.4mm but are working a new model just 1 mm long.
"We would like to make a 0.1mm one that could go inside the bloodstream," Mei told New Scientist. "Maybe we can make it even smaller using nanotechnology."
Bloodstream nanobots. One more item that's quickly passing from science fiction into science fact.
16 DEC 04 UPDATE: Asimo has learned to run!