Mashable recently published a short article on Paris-based Aldebaran’s humanoid robot. The robot, called NAO (apparently pronounced “Now”) already has the ability to mimic human movements. It comes with a programmable architecture and a CPU running a Linux kernel.
Now Aldebaran has ambitions to transform their android into a fully functional conversational robot. The company recently inked a deal with Nuance to integrate voice recognition and natural language processing technology into NAO’s architecture.
According to the Mashable article, NAO will have access to data in the cloud that will enable it to build its vocabulary and eventually carry on conversations. When combined with its face and object recognition, NAO might be useful in many different environments. Aldebaran considers the android to have a place in education and research. If it develops its dialog skills successfully, it might even be a suitable companion and assistant for people of advanced age. Aldebaran is currently working on software modules that enable NAO to interact effectively with children suffering from autism related disorders.
It certainly remains to be seen how successful NAO will be at carrying on a meaningful conversation. Building a vocabulary doesn’t translate into having the ability to hold a true conversation, where parties listen to one another and ask questions that layer upon earlier elements of the dialog. Having a real conversation is different from just answering questions. Will we be able to talk with NAO, or will NAO just talk to us? It’ll be interesting to watch the robot’s progress and find out.