This little cutie is a multi-media communication robot called Mi-Ro that was developed by Fujitsu. Mi-Ro was basically a head with stereo cameras attached to a PC base that could be used to study computer vision among other topics. It’s quite possible that it was initially developed to compete with the likes of NEC’s PaPeRo, Hitachi’s AV Mascot, and Toshiba’s ApriAlpha. Details are sketchy at best, but it’s clear that some of the hardware components developed for Mi-Ro were fed directly into the third model of Fujitsu’s humanoid research platform (HOAP) which would be released in 2005.
According to this snippet from Robonable, Mi-Ro formed the basis of a communication robot developed by Dr. Kawarazaki at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology (KAIT). Dubbed the “White Swallow” for its ability to sing, the robot appears in papers published in 2005 (see .PDF). There it was combined with a mobile base (by SGI Japan), rudimentary arms, and an LCD touch screen. It could interact with people based on voice commands and gestures, turning its neck to keep you in its line of sight.
It seems the project was intended to be a fun partner robot for the elderly (and to help prevent dementia). Software allowed you to edit MIDI files and add lyrics through a simple touch interface, while a speech synthesizer called SMARTTALK would generate a singing voice. Songs could then be saved and output as WAVE files with robot gestures and expressions synchronized to the beat. Whether Mi-Ro was later adopted at KAIT, and what happened to the software, remain a mystery since there are no contacts listed on the lab’s website.
A few more (tiny) photos follow after the break.
Robonable | KAIT