Researches on a Personal Robot have started at Nec in 1997. Several prototypes were made, including the "R100" in July 1999. Later, at the beginning of year 2001, the first prototype of a much more sophisticated robot was presented.
Named Papero, for "PArtner-type PErsonal RObot", the robot includes many features that you'd expect to find in a clever and mobile personal robotic assistant.
Small (38 cm) and light (5 Kg), Papero is autonomous. It can move alone (avoiding obstacles, thanks to visual and ultrasonic sensors), express emotions or dance. More interesting, a wide ability to interact with humans have been developed, mainly in way of speech and face recognitition. The robot can recognized 650 phrases, and speak back, with a set of 3,000 phrases.
In walking mode, Papero will look for human or will be able to come when called. It can then recognize the person, and begin to communicate with her. As everything is stored inside the machine's memory, Papero will behave in different ways, according to each person it is used to communicate with.
Still an experimental tool, useful for further research and studies, Papero is one of the major attempts to design a personal robot, both functional and friendly. As an "electronic pal", it allows youngsters or grown-ups to play and have fun with a sophisticated and smart mobile doll. And as a tool, it can be envisioned as a natural complement for families, able to act as a reminder, a TV remote, an email checker, or a surveillance guard. It can be pre-programed, or orders can be sent via the Internet, as the machine will be able to connect wirelessly to the network.
When you look at Papero and consider its round shape, its LEDs or the way it turns around, expressing excitement, you have no doubt that Nec engineers have dreamt about R2-D2, the cylindric Stars Wars robot-hero, for years. Yet, even if you're not a Jedi, you can be sure that a papero-like robot will come out soon, at a shop near you.
Photos © Nec
Cyril Fievet, October 10, 2001
Nec - Papero