A robot in Japan, called Ninomiya-kun has been created that can actually read books that have been placed on a special book stand. The robot is a special joint research venture with both the Kitakyushu National College of Technology and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The book reading robot is a one metre tall "child sized" bot with an aluminium frame and uses cameras in it's eyes to pick up the written characters on the page and then speech recognition software translates the text into spoken words.

The developers are working very hard to give the robot's voice a more human quality and they claim that once they have done that the robot will be ready to read books to children and the elderly for a living!

We in the west are safe from this parent replacement for the time being though as the robot currently only recognises about 2000 kanji, hiragana and katakana words although the creators say they plan to upgrade the robot eyes to recognise more complex characters in the future.