Small Humanoid Robots

Several companies are in the process of launching small humanoid robots. Sony has been showing QRIO at trade shows. It is the most capable of them, but QRIO is not yet for sale. The two newest robots are more like sophisticated toys. However, they do show that inexpensive humanoid platforms are emerging. They also show that the computer power needed for balance and navigation is getting less expensive and more capable.

The Robosapien robot comes from a toy company called Wow Wee:

According to Wow Wee's Web site, the robot will retail for $99 and can do the following:There is video that demonstrates the robot on this page.

The second robot comes from ZMP and is called Nuvo:

Nuvo is more expensive -- several thousand dollars -- but is fitted with a digital camera that can send images to a PC or a cell phone. You can also control it from a cell phone (in Japan at least) so you can instruct the robot to move to a certain point in your home and you will be able to see what it sees. Nuvo understands voice commands and can pick itself up if it falls down. Videos are available if you click on the photos at the bottom of this page.

These robots are both about 15 inches (40 cm) tall. Once they double in size and get a bit more capable, they will be about the size and shape of a human todddler. I own two 33-inch toddlers, and can tell you that a toddler is able to move anywhere in a human household -- up and down stairs, in and out of rooms, on and off furniture, etc. If you accidentally leave a door open to the outside world, they are off like a shot. Both of my children can move chairs to countertops, climb the chairs and get up on the counter. In fact, they will climb anything. They can open cabinets. They can get their tricycles out of the garage and ride them. They can turn lights on and off. They can get toys out and, with prodding, will put toys away. They understand simple voice commands like, "Get down off of that!", "Put that down!", "Absolutely not!" and "Don't you dare throw that!", although they do not always obey and often say, "No!" I imagine that we will be able to purchase inexpensive robots with that level of capability (perhaps without the climbing nor the disobedience) within 10 years or so.

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