Live from Sony Japan: A whole lot of Roly

Our intrepid editor, Richard Melville, is at Sony HQ in Japan. Before he'd even had time to un-bag his laptop, Sony was shoving musical robots his way. Here's the report, live from his cameraphone, of his encounter with the next-generation Roly...

So, this week, we're spending some time with Sony in Tokyo, exclusively getting inside info on the kit you'll be buying next year. Today we're chatting with the designers behind the Sony Rolly and getting an insight into how the cute portable music robot came to life.

Sony begin by showing a new Rolly, currently only destined for the Japanese market. Linking to your PC, you can program the motion sensitive functions of Rolly via Roll Choreographer, a PC application. It's very complex, with all manner of stats and graphs with an image showing Rolly effects.

Sony refer to the 'arms and shoulders' of the Rolly and are keen to stress and demonstrate the fun nature of the egg shaped player/speaker. By playing Footloose. We giggle a bit, but it's hard not to.

The Rolly software creates motion by analysing song tempo and mood – there's a new 'motion upload' site so you can share your moves with others too. Sony then play a Ricky Martin track, causing the Rolly to dance energetically, flapping its little ears and spinning and flashing.

Then we see delicate ballet moves to softer songs. Finally, it's the science statement: 'Neodymium magnet used in high grade speakers, low key sound reflected from floor'. One thing is clear – the small Rolly certainly produces a bigger sound than you expect.

The new 'pink' model has radio control – you can also control multiple Rollys (up to 7) and make them dance with each other. We hear a bit of Celine Dion while 3 Rollys dance with each other, simulating a bit of robo-love. They interact in cute way and we're reminded of Furbies for some reason.

By linking Rollys, you can play music simultaneously too, adding volume. There's a firmware update for the UK version due, with new 'moves' added. The Rolly is 'not a robot, it's kind of a music brain' says the inventor and Product Producer of Rolly.

He then mentions that the Rolly was conceived during the design process for the robo-dog Aibo, was invented 3 years ago and approved by top bods at Sony instantly. Sales in Japan have been above Sony expectations, though no figures are revealed...