Research and entertainment robot NAO is getting faster, smarter, and strong: in fact, it's a good job he only comes up to your knees, as otherwise we'd be worried. NAO EVOLUTION, the handiwork of Softbank acquisition Aldeberan, takes the hobby-bot and boosts its awareness of the surrounding environment - including its emotion-recognizing abilities - as well as how well it can interact with it, thanks to things like defter hands.
As well as more skillful fingers, NAO EVOLUTION also has stronger metal gears in the neck, hips, legs, and ankles. It's also wearing quieter shoes, with new soles that dampen the sound and friction of each footstep.
It'll run for longer, too, with a 48.6 watt-hour battery which lasts for almost a third longer than its predecessor. Still, that only amounts to around 90 minutes of use from the 1.9 foot high robot.
New algorithms improve face and shape detection and recognition, and there's a new quad-microphone array for better sound source location. Updated sonar sensors improve the robot's obstacle spotting and ability to understand distance, ranging from objects as close as 0.39-inches, to almost 10 feet away.
Now in its fifth generation, over 5,000 examples of the NAO robot are already being used in 70 countries, Aldeberan says. Although the hardware is appealing, it's actually really just a way of demonstrating the potential value of the company's NAOqi software, which is what gives Softbank's recently-revealed Pepper customer services robot its fledgling abilities to recognize emotions.
The software NAO EVOLUTION runs is easily interchanged with fellow 'bots like Pepper, for instance, meaning developers could cook up apps and services on their home unit and then install them on a different range of form-factors.
Meanwhile, Softbank has said it expects to sell a consumer version of Pepper from February 2015, after trialling it in stores this year. Sticker price is tipped to be the equivalent of $2,000 when the robot goes on sale in Japan.
Pricing for NAO EVOLUTION is yet to be confirmed.