PALRO System Software 2.0 is in the works, and Fuji Soft Inc. has posted some videos showing the robot’s improved functionality. PALRO’s face recognition has been dramatically improved over the previous version, allowing it to recognize a person even when they turn, nod, and tilt their head (recognition software often has difficulty unless the person is directly facing the camera). PALRO’s computer vision will be able to recognize the whole body and track multiple people at once, automatically determining their movement speed, direction, and distance from the camera. It can also plot these movements onto a 2D map. This will help the robot to remember specific people even if they move around.
Video (Face & Body tracking):
Additionally, PALRO can remember specific places and return to them when commanded. When placed in a new location, PALRO automatically looks around and remembers features from its environment. In the example, a woman tells PALRO to move, PALRO asks her,”where to?”, she tells PALRO,”to the calendar”, PALRO confirms the destination with her, then walks over to the calendar. This requires PALRO’s speech recognition and speech synthesis (which uses sound direction estimation and has built in error-checking and correction), as well as self-localization and path-planning. Sure, you could just move the robot yourself, but where’s the fun in that? The capability could also be used to play various games with the robot.
Video (Location memory):
PALRO can also connect to the internet and check your schedule via Google Calendar (a Twitter client has also been announced). When asked, PALRO looks at the person to identify them, then connects to their account and reads the current weeks’ schedule. Of course you’d have to set up access to your account beforehand, but this feature would allow you to keep working on whatever you are doing while PALRO checks things for you. PALRO is also able to check the news, weather, and so on. You can also leave a voice message and have PALRO play it back (in the video, PALRO plays a song clip).
Video (Google Calendar and Voice Message):
The latest batch of videos also show for the first time how PALRO stands back up from lying face up and face down. It even does a happy little shuffle on its feet once it is back up!
Video (Getting up):
So far things are looking pretty great, but I fear there’s one issue that won’t be addressed: the noisy servo motors. Unfortunately PALRO makes quite a racket when it moves, though given the relatively inexpensive price (around $3300 USD), it may be unavoidable. While Fuji Soft intends to market the robot to everyone (the final price has yet to be set), it remains available only to universities and other learning institutes for the time being.
Similar to existing app marketplaces, the whole idea behind PALRO is to foster developer support through its open architecture, which has already accumulated 30 applications (PAPPs). The company suggests that developers could create applications that would allow the robot to connect with home appliances. You could, for example, tell the robot to record your favorite TV shows or turn on the air conditioner while away, using your mobile phone. Fuji Soft Inc. is itself a software development company with almost 12,000 employees. It has already worked on embedded software solutions for robots through METI’s “Intelligent Robots” project, and sponsors a long-running Robot Sumo competition.
PALRO recently signed up for an official YouTube channel. You can check out other videos there, including PALRO doing tai chi: