Too tired to read the little ones a bedtime story after a long day? Japanese researchers may have had the time-poor parent in mind when they developed Ninomiya-kun, a robot capable of reading aloud from that most ancient of random access mass storage devices - a book.

The 25-kilogram, aluminum-framed Ninomiya-kun stands a meter tall and reads books, placed on a special stand, using its camera eyes. A computer housed in the robot’s backpack uses character recognition software to translate the text, so it can be converted into speech, using a voice synthesizer.

At the moment Ninomiya-kun’s speech falls somewhere between HAL and a Dalek, but the developers are working on a voice that has greater feeling, which would make it suited to read books to children or the elderly.

Ninomiya-kun can recognize more than 2,000 kanji (Chinese characters), hiragana and katakana (both Japanese syllabary), which enables it to read elementary texts. However, the developers plan to upgrade Ninomiya-kun’s camera eyes in the future to read more complex characters.

Ninomiya-kun was developed jointly with the Kitakyushu National College of Technology and Shanghai Jiao Tong University at Waseda University’s Information, Production and Systems Research Center (IPSRC).

Of course, one of the joys of childhood is being read a story by a parent, just as reading your kids a story is one of the joys of parenthood. We'd have to question just how busy we were getting as well as our priorities, though, if we ever really handed over the bedtime story duties to a robot.

Source: Pink Tentacle