[AI] Now, a self-do-it yourself robot

Nikhil Jain nik31 at rediffmail.com
Sun May 13 00:33:17 CDT 2007

Now, a do-it-yourself robot

Anand Parthasarathy

Humanoid makers ask delegates to teach him new tricks

— Photo: Anand Parthasarathy

ROBOSAPIEN: This is one humanoid robot you can buy, then programme to do new tasks. Robosapien went on sale at a conference in San Francisco, recently.

Bangalore: After homo sapiens, robo sapiens? The Hong Kong-based WowWee Robotics seems to think so. The two-decade-old research and manufacturing company
specialising in consumer robotics, has just unveiled RS (short for robo sapien) Media — a human-like robot that allows lay users to enjoy its considerable
skills — even as more `geeky' customers can write short programmes to make the half-metre-high RS move and perform virtually any way they like. It is arguably
the first do-it-your-self humanoid robot — and it was the centre of attraction at the week-long JavaOne developer's conference that ended here on Friday.

The makers had a special reason for unveiling their brainy boy at the world's largest annual gathering of software whiz-kids: RS runs on Java — so if you
are a Java-freak, you can write your own code to teach him new tasks. His articulated waist, shoulders, wrists and hands allow him to pick up, drop and
throw objects; sit, twist from side to side, bend, lie down, sit up and stand up again.

He can also see and hear. His long-range and close-range infrared vision allows him to see objects both close and far away. If he hears a sound directly
in front of him, he will walk towards the sound, and he may throw an object at the source. When not doing these clever things, he is a complete entertainment
centre — with a chest-mounted liquid crystal screen, a woofer speaker on his back and tweeters in his hands. His camera eyes can take still and moving
pictures and display them on the screen.

USB connector

Like any PC-based tool, he comes with a Universal Serial Bus (USB) connector so that you can link him to a PC to control him — or run new programmes you
have written to make him do special chores.

RS is embedded with Linux software and comes with 40 MB of memory — which you can expand to 1GB by adding a digital camera-type Flash memory card.

At JavaOne last week, he was on sale at a special programmers price of $ 269 — about Rs.12,000 — and the small numbers available were quickly snapped up
by software geeks who wanted to teach RS a trick or two of their own invention. The robot will be available shortly, worldwide at $329.

Details are available at
the company web page.

Nikhil Jain  

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