Starting in January, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin counting what may be the country's fastest-growing population group -- robots.

The tally will be part of the bureau's Current Industrial Report, which keeps track of industry development. The survey, to be mailed to manufacturers, also will count stay-at-home robots that perform household chores.

"We haven't had a survey specifically aimed at robots," said Thomas Mesenbourg, assistant division chief for the industrial report.

"It's an area that's growing rapidly and is expected to grow even more rapidly in the next five to 10 years, so we thought it was an opportune time to start counting."

If the project passes muster at the Office of Management and Budget, the $25,000 survey will count the robots produced domestically in calendar-year 1984.

The robots will be classified according to a variety of manufacturing categories, including "educational, hobby and experimental" or "other."

The results, according to Mesenbourg, will be used to assess the growth of the robotics industry and to keep track of rapidly developing technology.

Also, the bureau's "robot count" will make it easier for other interested groups to determine robotics' impact on domestic industry and to keep track of imports.