Researchers at Japan's Osaka University, in association with the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute, have created a robot that apes the "presence" of the caller during teleconferencing.

The 3-inch long, 5kg Telenoid R1 mimics the speech patterns and gestures of the person on the other end of a call, as long as they have a compatible sensor set up. It can repeat motions from face, head and arms, in a spookily familiar fashion.

Its price, reports International Business Times, will be 700,000 yen (£5110) for retail sale and 3 million yen (£21,903) for research purposes.

Of course, you may wonder why a business or individual would plump for one of these instead of using conventional video calling; and you'd have a valid point. But, the researchers have designed it for the elder population of Japan, to provide them with company.

And, you can't have a video call suddenly whip off its mask and reveal itself to be none other than ol' Smithy, the owner of the fairground now, could you?

He would've gotten away with it too...