Japanese corporations and researchers that want to test software or validate experiments using NEC’s communication robot PaPeRo can now rent the robot through a new trial service (with a fixed duration of 3 years). PaPeRo is a mobile robot with stereo vision (face and object recognition), noise-canceling speech recognition, and speech synthesis (with a large vocabulary in Japanese and English), running on Windows XP. The latest version, PaPeRo R500, is 38.5cm (15″) tall and weighs 6.5kg (14 lbs), comes in bright orange or fresh kiwi, and can autonomously dock to its charging station when it gets low on power. It has its own proprietary GUI called PaPeRo Creator which is user-friendly enough for kids to use.
NEC has been developing PaPeRo since 1997, beginning with the R100, to be a friendly partner robot for children and the elderly that can communicate using natural language. The robot has been extensively tested in kindergartens and care facilities over the years. PaPeRo could be used to control home appliances, allow parents to keep an eye on their children through a real-time cellphone video feed, and access the internet to read emails or rss feeds. NEC sees a future where PaPeRo would serve as a teacher’s assistant to help motivate kids, and play games and quizzes.
This is very good news for fans of the little bot, since it virtually guarantees NEC will continue to develop it for at least the next 3 years. Hopefully as universities begin working with it, they’ll help to bring PaPeRo to a level where NEC feels it can be commercialized.