In the last post I wrote about the huge potential of virtual humans as evidenced by the Virtual Human Toolkit of the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. The team at RoboKind has decided to go in a different, and perhaps more ambitious direction. They’re in the process of constructing a humanoid robot–the impish looking conversational boy bot Zeno R25. This little robot is designed to look and act much like a real human. The company has put a lot of research and development into outfitting Zeno R25 with life-like facial expressions. In fact, Robokind emphasizes that they’re in the business of ‘social robotics.’ The number one function of their robots is to engage people and interact with them.
RoboKind is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the continued development of the Zeno R25. For a pledge of $2,699 you can have a working, walking, talking Zeno R25 of your very own. Once you have the spunky robot, what’s next? Zeno R25 can see you and hear you. You can speak to it and it will understand you. Based on what the company says, you’ll be able to keep the robot updated with all the newest software modules as soon as they’re released. Modules that are either complete or in the works are foreign language lessons. Zeno R25 will be able to teach you Chinese, for instance, and then converse with you in the language to give you practice.
Another area of the robot’s capability is it’s ability to interact effectively with autistic children. RoboKind has worked with experts in the area of the autism spectrum and has developed therapy modules for affected children.
Eventually the company expects to allow users to upload all sorts of books and other learning materials to the Zeno R25. They plan to make the robot’s software open source so that the community can create more functionality.
Creating a humanoid robot that demonstrates the full gamut of motion, behavioral, sensory, and conversational capabilities is a tall order. It remains to be scene how successful RoboKind is in realizing their goal. In the meantime, if you’d like to support the development of an ambitious conversational robot, check out the ongoing Kickstarter campaign. There are lots of pledge levels to fit every budget.