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On 100th birthday, Sharp seeks salvation in talking vacuums

Jay Alabaster | Sept. 18, 2012
It's probably fair to ask why Japanese electronics maker Sharp -- deep in debt and red ink, cutting workers and salaries, awash in excess inventory in the brutal LCD market -- is actively promoting a line of talking vacuum cleaners.

As Sharp desperately sought financing last week to stay afloat into its second century, the scene was relaxed at its massive research complex in Tenri, a quiet, deeply religious town in central Japan. A guide demonstrated one of the moody vacuum robots, sending it zipping across a showroom floor with voice commands until it was time for the next exhibit.

"Go back to your charging station!" she said, enunciating carefully.

"Yeah, yeah," the vacuum answered, and spun off in the opposite direction.


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