Mail order retailer Hammacher Schlemmer is hoping that someone out there will be willing to plunk down the price of a luxury automobile on its Emotive Robotic Avatar. The US$65,000 device is essentially a stationary remote-control robot, through which its user can carry on conversations, make gestures, and convey five different emotions. On one hand it's a taste of the future, on the other... that's a very expensive puppet.
The 54-inch (137-cm) tall robot stands on a stage (not shown), and is able to move just about every part of its body via 19 concealed motors. A microphone and pinhole camera allow users to see and hear what’s going on around it, while a pitch-altering digital stereo processor relays voice through two speakers built into the stage – and yes, its mouth moves as you speak.
Besides being able to carry on real-time conversations, the device can also display feelings of happiness, confusion, anger, sadness, and embarrassment (as in “Oh man, I just spent $65,000 on a puppet!”). It does so through body language, voice pitch, and eyes and antennas that contain multicolor LEDs. If, for instance, the user wishes to convey happiness, then the robot will accordingly stand fully upright, with bright green eyes and perked-up green antennas – anger, on the other hand, is represented with squinty red eyes and pulled-back red antennas.
All of this interactivity can be controlled from up to 30 feet (9 meters) away, via an included headset-equipped tablet PC.
The Emotive Robotic Avatar has an aluminum skeleton, an ABS plastic shell, and runs on AC power. Units are built to order.