A BALD, child-like creature dangles its legs from a chair as its shoulders rise and fall with rythmic breathing and its black eyes follow movements across the room. It's not human - but it is paying attention.
Below the soft silicon skin of one of Japan's most sophisticated robots, processors record and evaluate information. The 130cm humanoid is designed to learn just like a human infant.
The creators of the Child-robot with Biomimetic Body, or CB2, say it is slowly developing social skills by interacting with humans and watching their facial expressions, mimicking a mother-baby relationship.
"Babies and infants have very, very limited programs. But they have room to learn more," said Osaka University professor Minoru Asada, as his team's 33kg invention kept its eyes glued to him.
The team is trying to teach the pint-sized android to think like a baby who evaluates its mother's countless facial expressions and "clusters" them into basic categories, such as happiness and sadness.
With 197 film-like pressure sensors under its light grey rubbery skin, CB2 can also recognise human touch, such as stroking of its head.
The robot can record emotional expressions using eye-cameras, then memorise and match them with physical sensations, and cluster them on its circuit boards, Prof Asada said.
Since CB2 was first presented to the world in 2007, it has taught itself how to walk with the aid of a human and can now move its body through a room quite smoothly, using 51 "muscles" driven by air pressure, he said.
In coming decades, Prof Asada expects science will come up with a "robo species" that has learning abilities somewhere between those of a human and other primate species such as the chimpanzee.
And he hopes that his little CB2 may lead the way, with the goal to have the robo-kid speaking in basic sentences within about two years, matching the intelligence of a two-year-old child.
By 2050, Prof Asada wants a robotic team of football players to be able take on the human World Cup champions - and win. Welcome to the cutting edge of robotics and artificial intelligence.
More than a decade since automaker Honda stunned the world with a walking humanoid P2, a forerunner to the popular ASIMO, robotics has come a long way.
Researchers across Japan have unveiled increasingly sophisticated robots with different functions - including a talking office receptionist, a security guard and even a primary school teacher.
Electronics giant Toshiba is developing a new model of domestic helper, AppriAttenda, which moves on wheels and can fetch containers from a refrigerator with its two arms.
Last month also saw the debut of Japan's first robotic fashion model, cybernetic human HRP-4C, which can strut a catwalk, smile and pout thanks to 42 motion motors programmed to mimic flesh-and-blood models.
A Tokyo subsidiary of Hello Kitty maker Sanrio, Kokoro - which means heart or mind in Japanese - has also produced advanced talking, life-size humanoids. "Robots have hearts," said Kokoro planning department manager Yuko Yokota.
"They don't look human unless we put souls in them. When manufacturing a robot, there comes a moment when light flickers in its eyes. That's when we know our work is done."