OK, so it may not have a Positronic brain, but Hanson Robotics has brought us one very big leap closer to Isaac Asimov's dream. Hanson Robotics' Robokind robot is the most sophisticated android, and probably the first such robot worthy of that name, on the market today.
While it is currently available only to researchers, there are plans to have the Robokind available to the mass market within the next few years, and the developers at Hanson Robotics are trying their best to make sure it has an affordable price tag. What's so special about the Hanson Robokind, you ask? Um, everything! Here's the pitch from the official Hanson website:
"Hanson RoboKind has transformed the features and technology of the renowned $200,000+ Hanson robots into small robots with spectacular prices, perfect for your research. These robots combine fully expressive faces, with powerful walking bodies, up to 31 degrees of freedom, and easy-to-use open software, offered now at prices between $8,500 and $14,750 USD.
The newest and most advanced technology on the market is here at breakthrough pricing and performance barriers. The new “HANSON ROBOKIND” robots have been miniaturized and operate with a 2 foot body and 4 interchangeable heads. They walk, talk, sit, dance, pick up objects, avoid obstacles, jump and kick.
ROBOKIND robots have two high-def cameras, computers, and sensors. They are the most expressive robots found in today’s market, enabling you to do the boldest research in your field. There are 4 interchangeable heads (Zeno, Alice and Geo), with motors that are as easy to change as a light bulb. Our heads can snap on and off of our bodies, such that a single body can share multiple heads. We have also created easy to use open source coding engine, and our own robot animation system in order to facilitate the development of advanced functions. Our head and body options are easy and customizable. We offer a range of faces and body combinations at a wide range of pricing options.
These robots enable bold new research in robotics, psychology, therapy research, education, student projects and innumerable other applications. They are also strong, agile and fast, with Maxon motors— well-suited for use in Robocup and other competitions."
What is Robocup, you ask? So did I. I had to look it up. Apparently, Robocup is a soccer tournament for robots! How cool is that? Robots who play soccer! Here's the Wikipedia article for the Robocup competition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RoboCup
Robokind isn't the first fully autonomous robot out there, but it does seem to be the most sophisticated. It has "eyes" composed of two independant HD cameras and is equipped with face recognition software, so it can literally see you. It is equipped with verbal command software so you can speak to it, and it even has the capability to speak back to you. But what is probably the best thing about Robokind, and what really qualifies it to lay claim to the label "Android" are the 4 interchangable heads. The Robokind's head has a facial musculature making it capable of facial expression, and it is covered with a synthetic skin the Hanson developers are calling Frubber (for Flexible Rubber). I guess Flubber brought up too many Trademark violation issues.
Sure, the robot is only 2 feet tall and sure it's the price of a new automobile, but isn't it worth it? I could see putting my family in debt and taking out a second mortgage on my newly bought home to have one of these. And I would call mine Data, but knowing me, would you have expected anything else?
The official Hanson Robotics website can be found here: http://hansonrobokind.com
What do you think? Do you want one as much as I do? Any forseeable problems with the liberal human rights people who are going to try and tell us that forcing robots to play soccer is a violation of their human rights? Or that it's wrong to make your robot go fetch you a beer? Sound off!