The X-Factor of Robots

NAO is the Michael Phelps of Robots. This humanoid is not just the winner of RoboCup soccer, as it has its own league, but ready to takeover the robotic dance forum in the upcoming Robotic Idol. To pedestrians of robotics, this sounds like cute childlike happenings, however the ability for a machine to dance like Rihanna or “Bend It Like Beckham” is no trivial pursuit.

NAO is quickly becoming the gold standard of the next generation of humanoid robots. NAO costs roughly around $5,000, which is bargain compared to its giant cousin (about 5x its height) Honda Asimo at $150,000 a month.  NAO is the brain child of Aldebaran a research company founded by  Bruno Maisonnier is 2005.  Aldebaran boats of its “fully-programmable and interactive humanoid robot equipped with state-of-the-art motion, vision, tactile and audio capabilities. NAO can walk on different surfaces, track and recognize faces and objects, express and understand emotions, and react to touch and interact by voice.”

“Developing natural, conversational interactions with humanoid robots is a challenging and pioneering area of robotics. Our robots have to express and understand emotions and for this, there needs to be expression in their voice that speaks to their personality, and matches their body language,” said Bruno Maisonnier, CEO and founder of Aldebaran Robotics.  Maisonnier’s crew is building a library of applications for education, autism therapy, university research, and engineering R&D projects.

Today, there are 5,000 NAOs in existence across the globe. This little army could eventually be the elves in the workshop of industry and government (maybe Sebelius should order a few to fix Obamacare’s website).  In my opinion, NAO represents a new way of commercial-born robotic innovations, which when open sourced enter a new exciting realm of possibilities.

World Cup Update: USA Beats Japan!

The crowd yells, “U-S-A… U-S-A”, but it is not Abby Wambach on the field playing Japan, its Abby Wam-BOT!  This past week in Istanbul, we saw a glimpse of the future of robotic soccer.  The world’s most popular sport is experiencing the greatest advancement since its founding in 1004 BCE in Japan.  

RoboCup is a worldwide research effort to bring about robotic advancements to mankind, regardless of physical boundaries or political ideologies (Iran plays America with Japan against China).   The larger purpose is to use these innovations to address significant social and geopolitical problems.  The lofty goal is to “develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots” that can defeat the 2050 human world cup champions. Watch-out Beckham you may suffer the same fate as Kasparov against Big Blue! 

Last week in the Small Robot League USA beat Japan, maybe this is a premonition of whats to come this Sunday.  Be careful not to trip, because your Roomba might be watching too…

Thanks to Jack Freifelder for the idea of profiling RoboCup.