Japan's robot of the year 2008 is…

…. Takara Tomy’s Omnibot 17μ i-SOBOT. And America, you can buy it. The winner of the annual Robot Award [JP] organized by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) was announced yesterday.

The i-SOBOT (strange name) is the world’s smallest humanoid that’s aimed at a mass market. The Japanese government praised its low price of around $350 (in Nippon, at least) and its advanced technology.

The robot is available in every toy shop over here. It’s able to walk, talk, dance, do the splits, play air guitar, carry stuff around and much more (see the video below). It stands 6.5 inches tall and weighs 350 grams. Users can control the i-SOBOT via a wireless remote control.

While the i-SOBOT won the first prize, a special award was given to Book Time, a page-turning machine made by Nishizawa [JP] (video), and to a rice-transplanting robot from Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization. You can have a look these two and other nominated robots in this year’s competition here.