Personal Robots on the Way, DragonBot Powered by Android

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15 Mar, 2012 1:30 am

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At Droidcon in Berlin Adam Setapen, Roboticist at MIT’s Personal Robot Lab explained how he hopes to use Android to release personal robots into the wild. Personal robots that are capable of learning have been around for a few years have been around for a few years, in 2007 MIT showed off Leonardo a furry Robot. Though these robots are capable of learning the problem is that they live in a lab and they have limited interaction of people.  The DragonBot program looks to answer this problem by connecting leveraging the connectivity of the smartphone and spurring collective learning through the cloud.

This furry little toy works when you plug your Android powered phone in. In fact the phone is the brains behind the operation. The toy utilises the front facing camera to take visual cues from you. It will respond with different expressions (using animations) depending on what it sees. Kombusto form factor is inspired by animation, one of the first tasks they give animation students is to animate a sack of flour. This inanimate object is given expressive emotion through a technique called squash and stretch.

The animated face gives DragonBot a wide range of emotional expressions, as well as the ability to present a user with dynamic content. The robot has six physical degrees of freedom centered around a parallel manipulator, and it runs for over 7 hours on batteries.

All of the robots living in the wild will be tightly integrated with Amazon cloud services. So if one robot learns something that information is shared with all the other robots on the network. Additionally, you can remove the phone and interact with a virtual, app-based Kombusto, or control him with an Android Tablet. What is amazing is that all of this is done on a single device. On a single Android smartphone handles real time animations (done in open gl), graphics rendering, motor control of the robot, computer vision and speech processing to give you the short list.

The DragonBot was not only designed to help kids learn, but to help us learn about the potential of human/robot interactions. Significantly, it’s going to be under $1,000. Yes, that’s definitely expensive for a kids toy, but for an artificially intelligent, cloud-connected, expressive, learning robot, that’s the bargain of the century.

DragonBot: A platform for cloud-based social robotics from Adam Setapen on Vimeo.

If you’re wondering what other projects they’ve got under way at the MIT Personal Robot Labs there is always AIDA.
AIDA is a robot that lives in the your dashboad of your car and for example pops its head out when you might be taking the wrong route. AIDA is a project MIT is working on with Audi.

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