Weekly Robot Update 007
First a few words about it's big brother PaPeRo. Developed in 2001 by NEC, the same company that brought us the carbon nanotube, PAPeRo is a cute little entertainment and house bot. The latest version of PaPeRo is 38 centimeters tall and weighs just five kilograms. He has a child like human sounding voice with a 3000 word vocabulary. And he can understand over 1000 words spoken to him. PaPeRo can read written words, have a conversation, get emails, act as a remote for your entertainment center, make jokes, and even tell your fortune. He uses a multitude of colored LED lights to portray emotions and facial expressions.
Inside of PaPeRo is a Pentium M 1.6 Ghz processor, a half a Gig of ram, and a 40 gigabyte HDD. The little robot also comes complete with 8 microphones, 2 stereo CCD cameras for eyes and a cluster of USB ports and PC card slots. PaPeRo gets around on three small wheels. He is capable of some autonomous behaviors, including keeping himself busy when being ignored by rolling around, dancing, or surfing the Internet through his WiFi modem. PaPeRo can recognize faces and adapt to individual owners. His personality will then change accordingly. Have a look at some pictures of PaPeRo... Please watch the five minute video. Cutest... Robot... Ever...
But the latest enhancement to PaPeRo has nothing to do with hardware upgrades or new talents. Instead, PaPeRo has been given a new home. NEC has developed PaPeRo CG software. You can install the software on any computer or PDA, and PaPeRo will then be resident on that device. He behaves following the same constraints as his real world counterpart. Infact, PaPeRo CG isn't really a copy of the physical PaPeRo, but more of an extension of his being. Any interactions you have with one, carry over seamlessly to the other. While his inert shell sits at home, you can now take PaPeRo anywhere you have a computer.
The real reason behind the robot's creation is to study how people and robots interact. For instance, whenever multiple PaPeRos get together, they find all sorts of interesting things to talk about. With PaPeRo CG, NEC has taken this concept to the next level. They have done this by modding their RoboStudio software (the brains behind PaPeRo) to work in any computing environment. Initialy this will just be a new way for you to interact with PaPeRo, while at the office or on the go. But NEC eventually hopes that PaPeRo CG will lead to a whole new kind of interface with all of our devices.
Imagine if you had your own robot, with an endearing adaptive personality that it learned growing up in your care. Now imagine if the soul of that robot also lived in your car, your house, your television, computer, cell phone, etc. No more stereo instruction manuals or discouraging learning curves for new gadgets. It will be possible to interact with any of your devices the way you interact with your robot. In addition to getting around confusing menu options and arcane programing commands, a friendly smiling resident robot could expose even the very old and the very young to technologies that would otherwise be beyond them.
PaPeRo CG is the first of what will at some point be ubiquitous. Eventually "agents" like these will pervade our daily lives, with many of our devices becoming little more than extensions to one permeating consciousness. At that point any barriers of entry will vanish. Interoperability will be a snap. This stands to change the very way we interact with the devices around us. Sure we'll still have the option of user unfriendly interfaces and remote controls. But who would want to do that when you could just ask your friend that lives in all of your machines, how far to the next gas station, or if there is anything on TV worth watching. I'm going to take a page from PaPeRo's book, and predict the future. This is the very beginning of a trend that like PaPeRo CG... Will eventually be everywhere. [inspired by Gizmodo]
"Greetings, Programs!" - Kevin Flynn
P.S. Happy Towel Day!