Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Friday, February 04, 2005
 
Happiness and Robots: Two Great Things That Go Great Together

Seaching for fun? Searching for happiness? Clearly you haven't gotten yourself a Sony QRIO (pronounced Curio), which unambitiously aims to be "an entertainment robot that lives with you, makes life fun, makes you happy." QRIO is both physically and intellectually innovative. (Wait, what's the adjective/adverb for having to do with computation and AI when applied to robots? Intellectual? Cognitive? Mental? Those all sound horribly wrong. We need a new word, people!) QRIO can walk, dance, kick balls, adapt its stance to various surfaces, and--apaprently--even do Tai Chi. (Quicktime Video.) Actually, considering its seemingly misplaced hara, or center, I'd be most impressed if it could do Aikido--and apparently one of its most touted features is knowing when to fall, and how:
When QRIO determines that its actions will not prevent a fall, it instinctively sticks out its arms, swivels its hips, and assumes an impact position. At the same time, the control system instantaneously commands the servos in the joint actuators to relax slightly. In this way it lessens the shock of the fall, enabling it to survive unscathed.
Equally impressive are the AI claims:
QRIO can have an entertaining conversation with you. It analyzes the words you speak using its voice recognition technology, and responds in its own words. It will ask what sort of things you like and remember them, getting to know you better all the time.
Actually, they aren't commercially available and at a recent demonstration at Carnegie Mellon University, Sony CEO Hideki Komiyama refused to quote a price range or put timetag on its availability, and for now the Robot functions mainly as a goodwill ambassador for the company. From QRIO's Flash homepage: "Sony decided to create a 'partner' that talks to you, plays with you, encourages you. . .For example Qrio uses body language and words to create a feeling of intimacy." Sounds like Komiyama and the Sony execs wants to keep all the partnership and intimacy for themselves!

American robotics companies have been focusing on adding functionality and autonomy to practical tools in fields like surgery and manufacturing; Sony, on the other hand, is not the only Japanese company working on humanoids--according to Byron Spice's Post Gazette article, so are Honda and Kawada. One reason for the difference, Komiyama said, is simply that "the Japanese people like this type of thing." This reminded me of a recent New Yorker article my mother showed me when I got back from Japan, a long profile of Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki. Margaret Talbot wrote: "One reason the Japanese are so good at this kind of thing is that many adults in Japan are curiously attuned to cuteness. Even in a cosmopolitan city like Tokyo, kawaii--or "cute" culture--is everywhere. . ." * I should have some minor photographic examples of this in a little bit. In the mean time a photo of me playing with Sony's mewling puppy robots at the Sony building in Tokyo's Ginza district.

Saheli playing with ABIO puppy Robots in the Sony Store in Tokyo's Ginza District
Link from Ruchira.

*A little later in the Talbot article: Althought much of Japan's kid-oriented anime has been exported to the U.S., a great deal more--such as "Anpanman," a hugely popular series about a bean-paste-stuffed bread roll--has not.(A fan Web site notes,"To a non-Japanese person, the concept of a living bread superman who fights giant germs and feeds the hungry with pieces of his head may seem bizarre.")
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
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Dave Barry
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Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
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Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



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Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
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Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
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Yglesias:Tpmcafe

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