NEC crafts a robotic helpmeet from PC parts

By Yoshiko Hara
EE Times
March 23, 2001 (10:18 AM EST)

TOKYO ? Researchers at NEC Corp. are giving new form to relatively mature PC technologies in the person of Papero, a “partner personal robot” that follows in the footsteps of Honda’s Asimo and the pawprints of Sony’s Aibo. While Asimo mastered bipedal locomotion and Aibo approximates the companionship of a family pet without the attendant carpet stains, Papero’s creators are focusing on the human-machine interface, honing the experimental robot’s sensing, recognition and communications skills to position the 15-inch-tall mobile platform as a true personal assistant.

http://www.incx.nec.co.jp/robot/PaPeRo/english/p_index.html

http://www.eetimes.com/story/OEG20010323S0024

TOKYO ? Researchers at NEC Corp. are giving new form to relatively mature PC technologies in the person of Papero, a “partner personal robot” that follows in the footsteps of Honda’s Asimo and the pawprints of Sony’s Aibo. While Asimo mastered bipedal locomotion and Aibo approximates the companionship of a family pet without the attendant carpet stains, Papero’s creators are focusing on the human-machine interface, honing the experimental robot’s sensing, recognition and communications skills to position the 15-inch-tall mobile platform as a true personal assistant.

“We have been developing robots as the interface between a human and the surrounding environment. This time, we made Papero compact enough so that it can be carried around. We are going to take Papero out of the laboratory to pursue better communications capability,” said Tsutomu Temma, general manager of NEC’s Incubation Center.

After it brings the robot out of the lab, NEC hopes the public will one day welcome Papero into their homes as a mobile terminal that can carry out home-security functions; help care for the elderly, the young and the infirm; and provide a superior communications gateway.

The 5-kg, 15-inch robot sports three wheels, a jointed head, a built-in wireless modem and the capability to perform seven kinds of recognition/sensing tasks. Two 330,000-pixel image sensors allow Papero to recognize human faces and obstacles. The current lab model can successfully identify about 10 people, said Yoshihiro Fujita, project manager at the Incubation Center. Papero’s image sensors scan for human faces. Once it finds a face, the robot identifies the scanned image by cutting out the central portion of the face and abstracting the characteristics. The image sensor also functions as a camera to record video messages.

Sound sensing employs four microphones. Three are used to detect the direction of the sound source. By measuring and calculating the time differences among the microphones’ reception of the sounds, Papero can pinpoint the location of the sound source and turn in the appropriate direction.

The fourth microphone is used for voice recognition. Papero understands about 650 words and can utter about 3,000 words at present, but Fujita said there is no “technical limitation” on the number.