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
. 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.
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.")