Mitsuo Kawato is fascinated with the brain so he helped build one. The biophysics engineer and computer researcher led a team at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kyoto, Japan, that spent five years constructing a humanoid equipped with artificial intelligence. Completed in 2001, the 6-ft. 2-in., 175-lb. robot was named Dynamic Brain, or DB for short. Says Kawato: "We built an artificial brain hoping that it'll help us understand the real one." DB doesn't have the friendly exterior of its cute entertainment-robot cousins. Its face is composed of just "eyes," made of two telescopic, wide-angle lenses, and its body is a bundle of metal and cables, thinly veiled by a translucent armor. But what makes DB special is its ability to learn new skills by mimesis, or mimicry. To understand how the human brain integrates sensory information and motor control, Kawato gave DB a dexterous body with functioning eyes, neck, torso, arms and legs. DB can watch a dance demonstration, memorize the movement pattern and replicate it by moving its body. So far, the robot has acquired about 30 skills, including juggling, air hockey, yo-yoing, folk dancing and playing the drum. Kawato is calling for a 30-year national project that would combine government money, academic research and corporate know-how to build a humanoid with the intelligence and the physical ability of a 5-year-old. He calls the proposal the Atom Project after the Japanese name for the comic-book robot superhero known in the U.S. as Astro Boy. "Atom was abandoned by its creator, who built it to replace his dead son, because it was incapable of growing," Kawato notes. "We know how to make our Atom learn."