Following the end of IREX 2009, Aldebaran Robotics made a presentation of their humanoid robot NAO at Osaka University. NAO has been adopted by an impressive list of universities from around the world (24 teams in 18 countries competed at RoboCup in Austria), including several in Japan. The company has grown from 20 employees to 85, many with PhDs, and is backed by strong government funding. Thanks to a standardized platform, researchers are able to share and compare their work in a thriving online community. Already some improvements to the robot have been rolled out, including a new LiPo battery which lasts up to 90 minutes.
And Aldebaran Robotics is involved in cooperative projects:
Feelix Growing (UK, Greece, Switzerland, France)
FEEL, Interact, eXpress: interdisciplinary investigation of socially situated development from an integrated or global perspective as a key paradigm towards achieving robots that interact with humans in their everyday environments in a rich, flexible, autonomous, and user-centric way. (http://www.feelix-growing.org)
ROMEO (France) Robot Companion & Personal Assistant
Conception and development of a humanoid robot of bigger proportions based on advanced physic and electronic platform, with elementary perception, fundamental capabilities, and integrating an advanced dialog, cognition, and interaction systems.
GVLeX (France) Expressive reading for Artificial Agents
Based on learning from corpus of expressive reading (recordings of professional actors’ reading) and automatic semantic analysis of tales for children, the robot or digital avatar is able to read, in an expressive manner, 15 minute long stories. Expression will include both voice and gestures.
450 units have been sold in the first year, particularly in the West where they are willing to pay more for a research platform than developers who build their own humanoids in Asia. Osaka University, for instance, is part of Team Osaka which up until 2008 consistently won the Humanoid League Cup. It may be a tough sell convincing them to adopt NAO when they have built their own robots with similar capabilities. In Japan, RT Corporation (the makers of RIC robot) is the primary distributor.
As part of their presentation, NAO gave its impression of C3P0 from the ewok scene in Return of the Jedi:
[source: Impress Robot Watch (JP)]