[AI] The perfect kid: Part computer, part robot

vishnu ramchandani vishnuhappy at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 20 06:28:04 EST 2008

The perfect kid: Part computer, part robot


NEW YORK:  Here's one kid who lives up to the dictum
that children must be seen and not heard. Meet Wizkid.
Part computer, part robot, this Swiss machine
is as endearing as any child, but unlike most kids, it
doesn't walk or talk, and it pays perfect attention.

More important, it will also hopefully change the way
people interact with machines.

Wizkid will be on display at the Museum of Modern Art
(MoMA) here and will be part of its Design and the
Elastic Mind exhibit, which opens Feb 24.

Wizkid is the result of a collaboration between former
Sony robotics engineer Fréderic Kaplan and industrial
designer Martino d'Esposito, both based in
Lausanne, Switzerland.

Wizkid isn't static and has a screen on a mobile neck,
which is trained to hone in on human faces. Once it
sees you, it focuses on you and follows your
movements and blends into human space.

There is no mouse or keyboard. On Wizkid's screen you
see yourself surrounded by a "halo" of interactive
elements that you can simply select by waving your

If you move away or to one side, Wizkid adapts itself
to you, not the other way around. If you're with a
friend, Wizkid finds and tracks both of you and
tries to figure out your relationship, expressing
surprise, confusion or enjoyment when it gets your

Wizkid's inventors see their creation as playing a new
and important role in the transitional world we

"Wizkid gets us AFK - away from keyboard - and back
into the physical world, " explains Kaplan. "Unlike a
personal computer, it doesn't force the human
to accommodate, and it's fundamentally social and

Kaplan isn't suggesting that Wizkid will replace the
language-driven interfaces of ordinary computers. But
he does believe that there are many areas in
which Wizkid's augmented reality could ease and
enhance the human experience.

For instance, if you hold up your favourite CD cover,
Wizkid will start the stereo. In the office, Wizkid
adds a new dimension to conferences, paying attention
to who is speaking - and who is not.

Unlike a real kid, whose learning curve can be
frustratingly hard to influence, Wizkid learns as much
as you want it to about you and your world, and
with you at a level that you define.

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