NAO strkes a blow for robot independence

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 NAO strkes a blow for robot independence
Sunday, 24 April 2011

A robot that can recharge itself?  It could be the end of robot dependence and the start of something nasty or it could be just cute?!

You may well be used to your robot vacuum cleaner or lawn mower seeking out its recharging station but when a bipedal humanoid robot does it then it becomes altogether spookier - or should that be "cute"?

NAO (pronounced "now") is a versatile robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics as a development platform. It is under 2ft tall and weighs about 9lbs. It is run using an Intel Atom processor, two web cams, microphones and speakers and connects to the network using WiFi.

There are lots of addons for it and yes you can buy one - the price varies from about $1000 to$10,000.  You can even join their developer community for a one-off payment of around \$3000 and get a robot plus all the software you need. Some say it is the robotics platform that the Sony Aibo robot dog could have been if only Sony hadn't made it a closed environment.

The latest piece of hardware for the NAO takes us a step further, however. It is a charging station that the little robot can locate, walk backwards to connect up and get a refreshing charge. He even sits down to wait out the charging period and then gets up and unplugs the cable!

Watch the video and experience the usual over-empathic response us humans get when watching a humanoid robot do something that seems to imply conscious intent. Your reaction probably should be fear as robot kind finally does away with the need to rely on a human for a recharge, but the little guy is just so cute - you have to want one...