Here’s a fun little program created by Florian Boucault and Zaheer Merali for the Nao robot. The bot asks how many people will be in the picture, gets a good view, and then snaps a photo (complete with pantomimed camera). The photo is then uploaded and emailed. (Video below.)
The actual function here is nothing extraordinary, but if you haven’t looked at the Nao before, this video provides a great place to start. Notice the smooth movements, the speech recognition, the clear speech synthesis, and the emotive lights in the head. Not to mention smooth body shells that cover up all the workings. This is a robot with polish.
Nao stands 57 cm tall and is packed with goodies: twin microphones, two cameras with built-in face tracking and recognition, four sonars, various tactile sensors, 25 degrees of freedom, and an 1.6 GHz CPU running Linux and proprietary middleware. It can be purchased at places like RobotShop for about $16k. Nao is made by French company Alderbaran Robotics — proof that you don’t have to be Japanese or Korean to make a world-class robot kit!
Interestingly, Nao is the only humanoid robot I know of that doesn’t use some standard servomotor for its actuators. Most robots and robot kits are built around a line of servos, but Nao’s designers weren’t satisfied with any of the off-the-shelf servos (and, apparently, not interested in going into the servo business themselves). So Nao uses Maxon coreless brush DC motors. In several places, motors are paired up to make a 2-degree-of-freedom universal joint. Again, the degree of polish (and innovation) that went into Nao is impressive.
To learn more about Nao, see the Nao H25 datasheet and the video gallery. The details on the mechatronic design make for very interesting reading too, especially if you’re thinking about designing your own humanoid.
(Thanks to Robots-Dreams for pointing out the new video.)