National Taiwan University and National Chiao Tung University have developed Monica, their 2nd generation intelligent robot. Designed to serve as a guide, home security guard, or nursing robot, Monica stands 130cm (5’3″) tall (about the height of an elderly person). Telemedicine – face-to-face appointments with their doctor via live video feed – would allow elderly people to stay home rather than having to make laborious trips to the doctor’s office.
Security features include the robot’s face recognition, which registers family members and sends SMS messages to mobile phones if it detects a stranger in the house, as well as a smoke detector. It could also be used in conjunction with health monitoring devices so that in the event of a fall or abnormal conditions, medical authorities could be automatically contacted. And like NCTU’s ROLA, false alarms can be avoided thanks to Monica’s live video feed.
NTU’s previous robot weighed a thunderous 120kg (264 lbs), but have managed to reduce that to 70kg (154 lbs). The most notable improvement over their previous robot is the inclusion of arms and four-fingered hands, which could handle small objects like medicine bottles. Speech recognition is handled through 8 microphones, and the robot’s LCD face displays a variety of amusing facial expressions which are easily understood.
The robot costs between $60~70 million TWD (1.8m USD), but with mass production the cost could come down to $30~40 million TWD ($900,000 USD). In the future, researchers at NTU hope to improve the robot’s computer vision to enable Monica to locate the correct medication for a specific individual.