Charles Is A Robot That Can Sing, Tell The Weather, And Read Emotions
Charlies is basically the little robot that could. Designed by Indian Institute of Technology alumnus Rajiv Khosla, this little companion robot is capable of walking, talking, singing, reading the news, telling the weather, shopping, and even understanding human emotion. Khosla, who is currently a professor at Australia's La Trobe University, claims his invention is the most advanced robot in the world.
Given that it only stands at around 20 centimeters tall, I'm actually inclined to believe him. The fact that something so relatively small can accomplish so much is actually incredibly impressive; as such, I can't help but tip my hat to Khosla's efforts. But just what will the little machine be used for, anyway?
According to Khoslo, Charlie is a "Partner-Personal Robot" (PaPeRo for short) specifically designed to assist children and adults suffering from problems like dementia, autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury and other mentally debilitating conditions. It basically exists to help them get through their day to day lives. While I'm certain there's no way such an invention could ever replace a human caretaker, it could certainly help a great deal.
"A child with dementia will often forget to wash his hands in the washroom. The robot will constantly have his eyes on him and remind him that he hasn't washed his hands and that he needs to do it," explained Khosla at a demonstration of the model organized by the Australian High Commission in New Delhi.
Currently, Khoslo and his team have conducted more than twenty field trials with Charlie and a host of other, similar robots - Matilda, Jake, Lucy, and Sophie by name. Users can communicate with their robot partner through voice commands, touch pads, tablets, and even simple facial expressions. That's actually the most impressive thing about this line of personal caretakers: they can read a person's feelings and personalize their services accordingly.
Although Khosla has designed the robots to be multi-lingual and easy to personalize based on culture and lifestyle, he also believes that such emotionally engaging machines will transcend such boundaries.
"Once the emotional status is established, the learning starts for both the robot as well as the human being. It can be used by all age groups to take therapeutic effects and positive stimuli."
While many other apps, phones, and even robotic assistants on the market tend to use impersonal touchscreens and keyboards. They're screen- and button-based, bound to an interface which, although familiar, is also quite unnatural. Khosla speaks of such interfaces with a certain degree of distaste, lauding Charlie for its natural and organic mode of communication with its user.
While other apps and phones in the market are screen based, Charlie is not. It will provide personalized services naturally. It looks at the mood and the expression unlike other apps and then responds accordingly. It is not a button-bound apparatus," he explained.
Khosla and his team designed the 6.5 kilogram robot in association with Japanese electronics giant NEC corp. Each robot is designed for one-on-one interaction and is equipped with facial recognition technology. When it detects a face it doesn't recognize, it creates a profile for that face in its database, recording individual likes and dislikes and responding to them accordingly. This is especially useful in large groups, where multiple users might be interacting with Charlie at the same time.
Currently, there are two versions of Charlie: mobile and static. The former is, fascinatingly enough, actually capable of walking itself to a docking station and charging up on its own. So...on top of everything else, it's actually autonomous, too.
Field tests continue to go swimmingly for the development team, said Khosla, explaining that "till now we have deployed seven such robots in Melbourne at homes with health conditions. And the owners are perfectly happy with them. The whole idea of PaPeRo is to compliment human beings,"
And compliment it does. Scale Charlie up in size a bit, and we might just have the prototype of Rosie the Robot Butler on our hands.
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