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Zeno Could Be Next Robot Boy Wonder

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  • IGGYandSvetlana
    Source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2178986,00.asp Zeno Could Be Next Robot Boy Wonder 09.05.07 Hanson Robotics latest creation is a 17-inch,
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2007
      Source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2178986,00.asp





      Zeno Could Be Next Robot Boy Wonder
      09.05.07

      Hanson Robotics' latest creation is a 17-inch, 4.5-pound robot boy that can
      walk, talk, express emotions, and make eye contact.




      <javascript:OpenImageWindow('http://www.pcmag.com/image_popup/0,1871,s=1489&
      iid=185711,00.asp',%20'640',%20'565')> Zeno


      By Lance Ulanoff <http://www.pcmag.com/author_bio/0,1908,a=204,00.asp>

      David Hanson-the genius inventor, father of
      <http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2036407,00.asp> "Frubber" life-like
      robotic skin, and the man who brought us a robotic
      <http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2016599,00.asp> Albert Einstein
      head-today introduced a prototype of what could become the next must-have
      personal robot.

      You can visit the Zeno web site www.zenosworld.com (editor's note: the
      site's URL isn't live yet, but should be available in time for Wired's
      NextFest) to see the first videos of Hanson's latest creation: a
      17-inch-tall, 4.5-pound humanoid robot boy named Zeno. The prototype, which
      will have a formal unveiling at Wired Nextfest in California next week, is
      described as an intelligent "conversational robot" and will ultimately be
      part of Hanson's "Robokind" line of personal, interactive bots. Zeno is
      still at least two years from commercial availability, but even at this
      early stage, the child-like robot apparently has some impressive features.

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      Much like Hanson's partnership with Hubo robotic to build the walking,
      talking Einstein robot, Hanson's team designed and built Zeno's head and
      commissioned Robo-Garage impresario Tomotaka Takahashi
      <http://www.robo-garage.com/english/index.html> to build the body, which is
      modeled after the popular Japanese anime Astroboy. The wireless-controlled
      prototype can walk, talk, and express emotions.

      Zeno's face is covered in Frubber, but Hanson explained it's a more
      "sophisticated version" than what's found on "Einstein," and is more durable
      and toy like. Unlike Einstein's face, there aren't any pores or wrinkles;
      Zeno is, ultimately, a cartoon character with a smooth, almost doll-like
      visage. Underneath the flexible skin are 12 motors (it has 18 more in its
      body) that provide Zeno with a wide range of expressions. Behind one of its
      large eyes is a camera that the robot uses to recognize faces. "[Zeno]
      recognizes faces better than people do, according to the latest facial
      recognition tests," said Hanson.

      Zeno's voice is generated via text-to-speech both dynamically and from
      prescript information. In fact, Zeno also tells stories and will recount
      adventures with its friends in the year 2027. While Zeno may eventually ship
      with a charging station, the current lithium-polymer prototype needs to be
      plugged in every hour or so. When low on power, Zeno cries and complains
      that it's tired. "So kind of an infant-like character. It's where robots are
      now: they're kind of helpless and it's natural that they should ask for our
      help," explained Hanson.

      Where Zeno diverges from the upcoming Ugobe Pleo, Sony's now discontinued
      AIBO and even Wow Wee robots, is that much of Zeno's intelligence will
      reside outside its body. The current prototype is hooked up two PCs, a Linux
      and a Windows XP box. One runs the animation software and the other Zeno's
      character engine. The final version will use one network-attached Windows PC
      and will connect to Zeno via 802.11g WiFi.

      It's also the first robot application of Academy Award-winning Massive
      Software <http://www.massivesoftware.com> , a product that's been used to
      animate virtual characters in the Lord of the Rings, I, Robot and King Kong
      films. Hanson said Zeno uses the software like a "physical brain. It
      controls body motion and reflexes of the robot and gives it a special
      awareness." Including, apparently, the ability to keep track of your
      whereabouts in a room and to turn and make eye contact when Zeno wants to
      address you.

      Hanson has high hopes and big ambitions for Zeno. "We're combining the best
      artificial intelligence with this theater for fiction so that the way that
      it's crafted the artistry makes the robot seem like it's more intelligent.
      It turns robotics into an art medium." However, if the somewhat difficult
      journey that the closely-watched personal robot, Ugobe Pleo
      <http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2089585,00.asp> is taking to the
      marketplace is any indication, two years to deliver such a potentially
      sophisticated and affordable robot could be wildly optimistic. Hanson,
      though, disagrees and told me that two years is achievable.

      "There will be compromises. The kind of animation that we're able to deliver
      in our high-end unit, we think we can get the essence of that into consumer
      products.It may not have 30 servos, but if you're clever in the way you're
      engineering the product, the technical compromises will be invisible to the
      user, because the essence of the character will come through."

      When Zeno goes on sale in a couple of years, it could cost around $200.
      However, Hanson's business strategy isn't only about selling automatons to
      robot geeks; The company plans on launching an interactive web site where
      subscribers will be able to download new interactions, intelligence, and
      stories for their Zeno robots.

      When asked if Zeno could be designed to ride the similarly-sized Pleo robot
      dinosaur, Hanson was enthusiastic: "That's a great idea! I think they could
      be great friends."



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