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Aldebaran Robotics' NAO Next Gen is smarter but still cute

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December 11, 2011

NAO Next Gen by Aldebaran Robotics

NAO Next Gen by Aldebaran Robotics

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Remember NAO, the robot that stole the show at the recent Robotville event? Well, NAO's already impressive set of abilities have just been extended with Aldebaran Robotics releasing a new version of its cute little humanoid robot. Around two thousand NAOs are used for research and education purposes all around the world but now that the NAO Next Gen is ready, the founder and chairman of Aldebaran Robotics, Bruno Maisonnier, hopes to see it become useful to humans in a more direct sense. It's new abilities are to make it even more versatile and, among other things, prepare it for working with autistic children and the elderly.

We covered NAO in detail in 2009, and since then not much has changed on the outside. We are glad this is the case because NAO could not get more likable. However, the interesting part is what's hiding under the hood. For one thing, the Next Gen now has more computing power at its disposal and handles multitasking much better thanks to an on-board 1.6 GHz Atom processor. Also, NAO's vision has received an upgrade with two HD cameras and the ability to process two video streams simultaneously. This improves face and object recognition even under changing lighting conditions. There is also a sonar distance sensor, two infrared emitters and receivers, nine tactile and eight pressure sensors. All in all, a pretty impressive set of tools that enable the robot to better navigate its environment.

NAO's battery provides around 1.5 hours of autonomy

NAO Next Gen has four microphones that allow it to pinpoint where a voice command, or any other noise for that matter, is coming from. New voice recognition software called Nuance coupled with a "word spotting" functionality allows the robot to recognize sentences or isolate a single word from a whole string of words in a sentence. Add a text to speech capability and fluency in 8 languages and NAO becomes an interesting partner for discussions.

And this is not the end of software related advancements. The new NAO now boasts a system to prevent limb/body collisions, an improved torque control mechanism and an adaptive walking algorithm. Should the 23 inch (59 cm) tall humanoid robot be pushed off balance, the fall will be automatically cushioned. Once a worrying shift in NAO's center of mass is detected, all motion-related actions are instantly put on hold and the robot uses its limbs to protect itself against the impact, just like a human would.

NAO packs a 27,6-watt-hour battery that the company says provides the robot with 1.5 or more hours of autonomy, depending on usage.

Aldebaran Robotics is now working on educational content for the robot to be able to work with high school students and on specialized software for personal well-being related applications. That said, the best thing about NAO is that it is open to 3rd party developers. They now have a more versatile and powerful tool to play with, so we expect them to do some interesting things with NAO in the future.

Here's a brief video from Alderbaran Robotics showcasing NAO's features.

About the Author
Jan Belezina Formerly in charge of Engadget Poland, Jan Belezina's long time fascination with the advance of new technology has led him to become Gizmag's eyes and ears in Eastern Europe.   All articles by Jan Belezina
5 Comments

When someone begins making these little guys look like a little gray alien I'm buying one.

YukonJack
12th December, 2011 @ 09:10 am PST

Getting there... a host function where a person could log in and command the robot remotely from any location along with voice and microphone control would be nice. It needs to be aproximately 3 to 4 feet tall, with the ability to climb a small step ladder. This is just a toy until it can actually do some work.

Dana Lawton
12th December, 2011 @ 02:56 pm PST

That was exscelent. The way the robot protects itself when knocked over, then gets up does a self diagnostic and reports it is OK.

I wonder how long it will be before you can actually run one of these things for a more functional amount of time though, 1.5 hours is not very good. I understand that with todays technology that is quite good but it really is the only thing holding this robot back.

Foxy1968
12th December, 2011 @ 04:31 pm PST

Knock it over 5 times, it should say "Stop poking me!". It still walks with bent knees like a character in the "Blondie" comic strip and it still looks like a knockoff of the QRIO.

Gregg Eshelman
12th December, 2011 @ 07:59 pm PST

But when can we buy one?!?!?!

Brook Merriman Davis
18th March, 2013 @ 10:39 am PDT
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