Developing a new humanoid robot is a major challenge involving a wide range of skills and expertise. It requires state of the art knowledge of mechanics, dynamics, motors, servos, sensors, control software, artificial intelligence, and even business management. If the robot is targeted for commercial sales, then the hurdles, and risks, are even larger requiring significant capital investment, and patience. Good humanoid robots take time to develop, but if you keep at it the results can often turn out to be extremely impressive.
One very promising humanoid project we've been avidly following for quite a while is the Nao robot being developed by Aldebaran Robotics in France. They have taken a very measured and cautious approach to releasing information, only letting the press and public know about their progress when they feel confident enough to disclose it. Their attitude has been refreshing in comparison to some other companies that never miss the opportunity to toot their own horn.
When we heard that Aldebaran was taking Nao to Atlanta to show off a bit at the recent RoboCup competition, it was a clear sign that they have made some significant progress. So we were very interested in finding out how the robot is coming along.
Our contacts at Aldebaran were kind enough to share an update on the robots progress along with some new photos and video clips.
Nao ready to take the field and play soccer.
Aldebaran has developed a second robot with eyes and a distinctive red color.
The feedback from people that were asked about the impression they had of the original Nao robot's personality was split. Some could really relate to the robot, but others found the lack of eyes to be a little uncomfortable. Based on that, Aldebaran developed a second prototype equipped with eyes, this time with a rich red color scheme. It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to each version. As much as we love blue, our personal preference is definitely leaning towards "le Nao Rouge."
Aldebaran is currently integrating the robots sensor systems, including IR, ultrasound, and touch sensors, along with it's inertial stabilization. Considerable progress has also been made with removable design parts and the supporting applications that will include behavior editing software.
Aldebaran is implementing gripping hands for the Nao robot.
The robots voice has been decided based on community feedback, which has us very curious since, like eyes, voice can often be a major factor that contributes to personality. Of course, Nao may have some difficulty correctly speaking French without a nose and the ability to create nasal tones (just joking). Aldebaran plans to launch a newsletter focused on the robot this coming September.
Here are the latest video clips, courtesy of Aldebaran:
Aldebaran Robotics (French - for English look for the small "Fr/En" button )
More information on Nao and Aldebaran (English)