Full-bodied humanoid robots are undeniably fascinating, but why pay for the lower part of the body if you don't need it? For that matter, why pay for the arms if you don't need them, either? That's the thinking behind the SociBot and SociBot-Mini interactive robots, which we just "met" at the International Robotics Exhibition.
SociBot is made by UK-based Engineered Arts, which also manufactures the humanoid Robothespian robot. True to its name, Robothespian uses its expressive face, non-robotic voice, and dextrous hands and arms to perform presentations, interact with members of the public, and otherwise "emote."
Incorporating some of that robot's interactive features, SociBot is designed for the same sort of applications, but where finances or space are more of a limitation. Although it doesn't have legs, it does feature a head-mounted RGB camera, an articulated neck and arms, an infrared depth sensor, a touchscreen interface, and a two-way audio system. Its animated face is projected onto its face screen from within via an LED pico projector, allowing for a variety of expressions and identities.
SociBot-Mini is pretty much the same thing, minus the arms.
Both versions of the robot are capable of voice recognition, and can speak over 20 languages. They're also able to track at least 12 peoples' faces at a time, plus they can recognize expressions and hand gestures, along with accurately estimating gender and age. This reportedly allows them to carry on conversations with a wide variety of people, responding to their body language and other parameters.
Aside from just being a neat toy, SociBot's suggested applications include "shopping centers, theme parks, airports, tourist information centers, science centers, and anywhere requiring personalized content delivered with a human touch." Because it's able to access the internet, it could also be used as a telepresence robot.
SociBot is priced at £14,500 (US$23,227), with SociBot-Mini coming in at £9,500 ($15,218).
Source: Engineered Arts