NEC is promoting their new PaPeRo rental service at IREX 2009, and brought along PaPeRo-mini; a telepresence robot that has the shape of its bigger brother but has no autonomous functionality. Even though the body is smaller than a regular PaPeRo, it sits atop a somewhat bulky power station and processing unit which increases its overall size significantly. Rather than having stereovision, the robot is equipped with both a standard and wide-angle camera, which provides a 180-degree view of its surroundings. The robot is 25cm (9.8″) tall and weighs about 2.5kg (5.5 lbs).
So what does PaPeRo-mini offer over a standard webcam? It comes with speech recognition, speech synthesis, sound source direction detection, face recognition, and network communication capabilities all on the same processor. The robot could sit in the corner of a business meeting or in the home to connect people in different locations through verbal commands. NEC is experimenting to see what business opportunities exist for such a device. Assuming they toss the large pedestal unit and the price is right, I’d certainly prefer to have a PaPeRo-mini for a webcam than the boring standard ones.
[source: Impress Robot Watch (JP)]
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