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Aldebaran Launches NAO Next Gen

Aldebaran Robotics has launched NAO Next Gen, a new version of a robot used by universities around the world.  Aside from some new colors, NAO Next Gen doesn’t look any different from the previous version, but boasts upgraded performance in key areas.  The new 1.6GHz Intel processor can handle two HD video streams simultaneously, allowing it to recognize objects and faces faster.  New speech recognition software (called Nuance) can sift out the most important words in a spoken sentence to produce more accurate responses.  And the company has optimized NAO’s walking gait, which increases its speed dramatically.  Other features include smart torque control and self-collision avoidance.  The company says they have sold around 2,000 units since its inception in 2005, and will continue their developer program which allows individuals to purchase the robot with a hefty discount.

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We’re not sure how this will affect existing NAO developers.  The press release doesn’t detail any sort of upgrade program, but it seems that older versions should be able to take advantage of some of the new software and optimizations at the very least.  Representatives on the company’s forums say the new version of NAO may finally be available to the general public in 2012, though at its current price point only the most dedicated (and wealthy) robot enthusiasts would be able to afford it.

The upgraded performance is nice, but after several years of development and increasing competition from the likes of the Robotis DARwIn-OP, we expected a new version to be a more dramatic overhaul.  As we’ve said before, we hope that Aldebaran Robotics will consider hiring Tomotaka Takahashi (ROBO-GARAGE) to design a new model of the robot.  Meanwhile, we’re getting very close to finally seeing their ambitious full-size humanoid Romeo in action, which is being developed to help the blind.

[source: Aldebaran Robotics]