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Crave: Ep. 57: Keepon invasion
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Crave: Ep. 57: Keepon invasion

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It was only a matter of time before the Crave podcast was invaded by robots. Fortunately, this week's robot overlord is the insanely adorable, soon-to-be-available My Keepon robot by BeatBots. The pint-sized dance bot is joined by its co-creator Marek Michalowski, who explains the robots origins and its road to commercial viability.

It's September 13 and you are experiencing -- crave podcast. I'm Donald bell. Eric Franklin with -- are very measured in true this week. And I wasn't like reaching out there tonight you'll pregnancy -- our -- now grabbed some -- barely understand limits out of this space. Owners -- we are I want this to be. As. As formal and amazing upon this is the this is the episode -- time when none of the episode goes into the archives to -- remembered. For ages learn it because they don't like the other -- -- We've we've been without robots -- for a few weeks. -- on the show -- -- the world in in the context of the stuff we talk about right -- that there -- a rash of robots for a lot of talking about now. The Japanese are reliant are great robots via the robot outbreak or my weekly tirades against slate that ruled apocalypse -- happen -- -- sol. What we have today is the robot -- -- least likely of any robot I can think of to -- -- robot overlord and to a -- is not going to watch the closest -- that I don't know parents of that talent here with us today. Is Merrick. -- allows. That's -- that's. Not bad and just as important not to diminish manor care -- but He might keep on. Robot which has delighted people. Further passing over it over a year now but this is the consumer burger habit. I'm talking over an action took ages to adorable dialogue over these things seem important -- this is we saw this as and an experimental project thinking -- -- a partnership. Right so I've been working with -- -- -- in Japan for a few years -- -- -- because Yuma and He designed keep on. As a tool for. Their. And -- -- more generally the study of social development in children. He designed this. Very high quality. Research robot with. You know that the most expensive -- money -- buy. All the you know custom handmade like collects Swiss clockwork. And and that robot was thousands of dollars but it was it was meant for the the research. The research setting -- this year we have a toy version coming out. But I was and even that -- its its most expensive version of it enemy is deceptively simple looking and -- I mean on purpose because those to be. There to interface with children and make children feel comfortable now ninety approachable but but other than. At first glance -- marijuana for side and look like two tennis balls can you announced the get wedged together. But down with a -- So -- when it was first created most of it has -- the -- main purpose was for it to. Kind of track and interact with children and I Kazaa has cameras and science within the professional model right -- Keep on pro which which -- been using in our own research and we've been. Getting out and out into other universities and and research labs. That that robot does have cameras in the eyes and a microphone in the news. And it's controlled by a human being in another room and usually that's a therapist. Or a teacher. And in those and those contexts. The the robot act as a simple body through which. Be there that's for example can interact with children in a very different way than they could face to face. And I'm listening to you by also want to reach out -- hug I think that it's just looking at me in front of her -- So but when it when it really reached the viral level of of what any robot hopes to aspire to -- when you you made it can't. -- -- so so so keep on had been used in these in this autism research for a number of years. I was starting my Ph.D. in robotics at Carnegie Mellon university. And was interested in. The non verbal elements of interaction that robots. Are generally pretty bad -- now we have this notion that -- source are stiff and rigid and and awkward to interact with -- and -- a benefit and what of the main reasons for that is is that in our social interactions this kind of advanced going bad that there's a lot of the other robot and that I've seen this happen. Accurate now. It yet -- -- -- -- have yet there's there's also the idea that that given a sophisticated enough robot every dance is the robot -- -- yeah. So and we homework -- so so. You know there's there's there's a lot of social science research involved in looking at how people. Interact with each other they're they're talking but they're also doing a lot more there's there is. These you can see these repetitive hand gestures that I'm thinking we're nodding we're linking all these very periodic behaviors. That if you record those -- -- actions to slow them down and look for -- mainframe you'll see that. The frequencies of those behaviors are. Often synchronized between people and and when when. That is. When that process is broken like some keep -- disorders caused people palms in there in their timing actually that is one of the one of the characteristics of autism is music and -- failure in in appropriate timing in social -- Then we eat we often even call those people you know robot that is an I was acting I -- a little. About kind of like they premiered neurons kind of like when you're looking at somebody and want -- -- interact -- they'll cross your legs you more likely to grow -- yeah -- Share them. Right so -- as one element of that and then and then the timing of periodic behaviors is is. -- hand in hand with with all that and and so robots. Don't. Don't really know how to do that and and so that what I want -- to. Due in my Ph.D. list it's -- start developing some technology that can get. A robot to participate in a natural conversation. Not just understanding words in generating an appropriate response but. -- more -- -- anti ballistic level two cents. Them the way that that conversational partners moving and to move appropriately to give on the -- telling the robot like. You know I need you to make me a Stanley sandwich that because -- I am starting to get it right I need to run out the door and like the -- you like yeah okay I. Whereas if it's a more relaxed setting and then the robot should be -- -- shares of a given that it can't get around -- the -- at some point maybe human. Could pick up. So. So that kind of first step but -- I think was can actually make the robot dance and music ports. And so that. When I when I asked -- you -- on in Japan if I could if I could come in and do an internship with him -- work on. On keep on. He invited me over. You know I got there it could keep on my desk and -- and I -- I think I think keep on let's dance it was -- there was something I saw in the character that had not really been expressed -- was his first reaction to hear this data. To -- if you wanted it was easy. -- the good thing they -- a lot a lot of the Japanese robotics thing even like the -- and -- robots that you'll see like the very formal. Dancing like a -- robot thing in and of itself is kind of a a tired. Idea I think there were apparent for years -- a robot can now this hand come out and impress people by dancing you know the -- some independents like keys aren't yet out -- the -- okay Mike. At what point did you like He knocked it so far out of the park that -- revolutionized dancing robotics. -- from here on out the guy gets like it's infectious. It's funny because I wanna -- right now and I'm not even pentium is looking -- Donald hitting the audience so that's saying something really -- do well well what I mean on the road dance. Is adjusting because they didn't. I didn't really think about what the movements would be I wasn't trying to choreograph -- dance I was trying to make the robot. Move rhythmically. I mean He had you know a bunch of motors and I -- certain. Move each -- back and forth and and and change a bunch of -- how that works but given a tempo. Make the robot just move and and it was very much random and and the all the dances that came out of it which you'll see in the original video it's -- -- -- I -- my camera on and on. Bye -- of the rock band spoon. That was it that was a video that I IE made in the -- not for public dissemination at all I was I had I had just gotten like. This dancing to work and it was changing and it was and it looked really good. And I wanted to show my friends at home what I was working on in Japan over the -- and so -- I mean that video and then. Nothing I didn't do anything -- effort. Six months until there was a conference. On human or not interaction where I was starting to talk about the -- doing and and we showed that video and then -- reporter from the new scientist. Came up and said hey you know warrant article about this and can we -- -- embed the video that well on YouTube and actually I don't have permission to use that song -- But I emailed the band and and spins manager I -- -- on interpreting the singer who. Goose who wrote back and and said. That's pretty cool like thanks for asking nobody ever asks. Hands up is music and in YouTube videos -- he's like yeah go ahead. Ewan put it up so I don't know what I think about this is actually kind of cancer that I ways like it's like I'm Bob down Hitler back of the room by bell Canada and my Internet and and my friends were also telling me that when they were there -- seeing these that if they say you can advances like these -- In infused. Provo with yeah of course isn't something of myself. So anyway when that video and up -- the new scientist article all the blogs are covering it and then. An editor from YouTube. Rodents that hate you commission's you that song. And -- yes yeah yeah I do like -- like rate its gonna be on the front page has and I. And in a couple of hours it had gotten hundreds of thousands of them -- -- within a week it is a million. Use of this of this video and and that was cool you know we EM. We got go to the Webby awards and and keep on helped to -- makes them words out there. On but anyway then a few months later senator -- WIRED Magazine. Contacted us and said hey we we want to arrange something where you you do you. And a follow video with spoon. And so they be. And of wrote this whole story Ian and flew us all -- in Japan and the -- came out as well as we -- we spent four days like driving around Tokyo with like a cameraman. -- -- -- -- -- a little lock ons yeah and but and keep it's also -- who are you living the life I was so -- of that draft everyone's -- keep on feeder. But you've got this. Keep on pro that's -- -- 30000 dollar robot right no -- taken this home. Christmas right we had a few a few universities. And research labs. Exe Disney research it and there's a group in Pittsburgh they they got a few of them so people who -- we're gonna do serious work with that robot. We we made it available to them. And and that was great because you know we we could see that there was a lot of interest thing. -- -- -- getting when the robot was interacting with with these children with autism -- the simplicity seem to cut through the noise. A lot of these kids and in over on the movement of people -- And but but the two of us didn't really have the resources toward -- time to do. All of the kind of studies that we wanted to be able to -- it and so the idea was to just get it out into -- labs and and and at a community of researchers could do more -- than we could yourselves. And so we're we are doing that and meanwhile there were a few toy companies coming in asking us if we interest and in working on the toy and so we. We talked to a few people and and in the end we this we decided to work with a British company called -- stuff. Who was. That they had. They're they're they're big. Product that they had released the year before it was. This very cute toy called -- Shoulder monkey and insisted -- -- Little Mikey that sits on your shoulder any doubt strap go with a company that made the monkey. It's my Guiding Light to edit that over your bedroom -- -- you -- trust monkeys just monkey. Wesley doesn't mean it's a show -- but she's. Stressed. The Alaska is so now that this is the partnership is gonna. -- -- produced this reduces the consumer. Version of this is this is called -- coupon it is. Going to launch this fall. Mean Toys 'R' Us in the states and then in few other other retailers on the world. And it's gonna be just under 5050 dollars. And so that's great because we're we we knew that you know that's. At a price point we wanted to hit for for all the people who since these videos had been coming out have been emailing me on a daily basis I mean I've gotten. Thousands of the panels and and YouTube video comments and everything people wanted a -- that they you know they could have on -- desk here so. On. We set -- right well how how how much can we. How much of the essence of the keep on character can we. It's you know maintain in something that costs a few tens of dollars. And I can -- you know we were we are. Really nervous actually because we will be in wanna do is was let let people down -- in terms of what they're seeing it of this researcher about dancing. We wanted you -- see if we were going to create I want to create toy that. That mean you know maintained the attractiveness of them movement and and their parents of the character -- You wanna -- think of us -- keep on that was just like squeaky. I like it -- don't admirably against him -- cancer mean yeah exactly go back and you're right now. Right in there and we certainly -- -- it to make. To that of all you dancing toys -- down so share so. In -- enact a you know -- I'm I'm really impressed with with what -- what they're engineers were able to. Come up with. In terms of a mechanism that. Does dramatically reduce the cost -- obviously but still. Is able to is able to control the movement of the of the toy quite smoothly. And we of course couldn't you know in the toy include camera -- and and can you know remote control -- -- my computer here and all that stuff. So we -- we we thought well that the two kind of core aspects of the character you know besides the appearance. That we wanted to keep were the dancing certainly and -- there's really activity to -- touch and so. So that is reflected in the two the two modes on this toy. Before you do the -- I -- my said that the one silver lining to this too is also that. If an eccentric music profits from this are also go to help -- keep on pro that's right that's right -- there's a fielded. Yet -- -- candidates to yes so when must of came to us. And proposed it to do a toy. You know the war the one thing one thing I was looking -- was you know and these guys executed a -- a good. In a physical physical thing them that we would be happy with. And the other thing that that they suggested is that. We could use the enthusiasm around this character and and hopefully. -- popularity of the toy to support -- The origins of the robot so it so that the -- autism research that it came out of that would that we wanted to. Its support all that all that work and so what we're. Going to be doing is is. Using a percentage of the -- and -- the toy. To subsidizing the the production. -- original researcher of bonds and getting them out into into the world's. You -- that that the people who have the grants to it to. By you know. To -- the the full price of the robot which which most most of that cost is labor you know it's there -- -- -- -- time and so its its it's very expensive for that reason. But but there -- of a lot of people who want to use coupon for you know autism autism research. Who you know they may be run -- a little clinic and it and they of course don't of that kind of grant money and so word we're looking to. Some sort of application process for people -- of people in the field can can -- this is what we would do with a -- -- and and we can get them. Those those robots. And and they can use them so that that's that that's a very important. To us you know part of what you know what we're doing with with it's almost like the rest in a -- we -- into his arrest and wanted to -- -- kids laughed. But -- babies that so. The the toy has has two -- -- touch Modena and advancement and so. There and those are these these two buttons at the bottom here so we we wake him up in touch. -- wakes up and goes through little kind of stretching -- -- he's actually I mean that that's that's. Cute because he's waking up but it also as a there's a technical reason for that which is setting up when you figure out world the motors are there other positions on. On and basically you know keep on is. Is. Now looking around looking around and looking for or. Somebody interact with and sonus are they still centers in him at all that contract where you might be in the room. And now I mean that He. You can't know especially where where you are except that if you are touching him from from different points on his -- -- points on his body. He's beware of react where it's being queries being -- And an exciting patted on the hand. And -- heard. Who doesn't. Even robots. Likening -- to be -- tickled. One. And is looking at me and extra attention think. He's not real I'm already thinking that this thing is -- seriously doubt it ever. Vertical jump -- that it. I so that that's one mode is He would bid to tickle me keep on -- -- right right and then the other is. Music mode or dance -- loan. In them that he's listening or something to -- -- -- that so the easiest things we can. -- -- We got some things. -- -- -- -- -- -- So we actually reacts to them to the rhythm of whatever the -- so so -- he's got some years some very clever be detection via. In in -- Circuitry and and the software what determines at which way He -- sport He just goes up and down there so He. He uses He basically dances he's got a a whole set. And parameters that He can call on in generating advance and and that is normally -- Then folders -- there's there's there's certainly some randomness -- but there's also. Some intelligent kind of selection of -- how to dance is already there how about Dan doesn't like how fast the music is yeah August of isn't it it's the be is pretty fast -- notices that the past be killed bands in a more appropriate. -- -- that's right yeah so. If we. If they. It's a a pretty. Wondering what we can -- didn't happen a drum circles that has ever been. He now have a recent yeah those -- gonna -- -- here about the room. Keep -- comes at this. Metronome. That's -- pretty pretty fast -- And use if I ended -- they -- -- -- that -- but then if we if we get them a pretty slow. -- -- -- Sarasota that there is of course he's he's got various. They're they're speeds at which these to promoters like to -- and and there are limits of course says as any than any living creature does queries in. How fast you can move particular muscle and so so his stance reflects -- Ability. Of all these different -- to to -- at certain speeds and also looks like reflects the ability of don't voters have had -- -- -- -- -- -- -- in the club. -- -- Now let's say I can imagine. I well first of all its. You know it's like the dorm room novelty sure -- for the office LD did the office desk image got -- -- -- And a ready access the Latin music -- and make sure history now let you know. You can get attention from people named movement. He runs in the trance house. That stuff. And -- -- thinking and with the little thing to do here. -- -- -- -- so you know the different different types of music will be easier for him to. Detect the beat of course if it's if there's regular regular -- -- -- There that is easier but. You know He He certainly does does the best He can and hand I think -- a lot of ways it's better than a lot of people. -- -- -- that now already like the capitalist in me. -- accessories for this thing I wanna version has little hipster mustache these things I want. I want my neighbor -- version of it which I think would just involve some holding of the church or share. If it doesn't elaborate classic who'd left for my request on to for the special edition bring me okay -- So. So He had actually we're here. Very excited because this this fall older you know we have this toy coming out and then next year we have a lot of of other things planned that wouldn't be doing. With with coupon and and that you know we we think people are going to like that stuff a lot. But for us it's very important that people are gonna personalize. You know there it's it's called -- keep on because we want people to do you like to do that means yet -- To address at the cellular that really slate little loopholes would keep Steve and -- must -- okay Eric. Good good good right so we have we you know a lot of -- the videos we've we've made of keep on pro certainly have of these if you had legs and request -- pan ethnic. Maybe like a little little glow stick conditions are hunting whatever your hands he's it is still baggy -- -- -- -- and of the -- in the last fifteen. And where. That's great now I'm excited for this ash -- till bloody for making it as. Like I was expecting the consumer version of it to be a little bit cheaper to do that it's as much more press about -- you brought the original in. So that that must have really done them a lot of thinking lot of work at 30000 dollar. You know experimental robot. And also must must have it like having -- -- you know. You -- a lot about what you're talking about study and stuff and what's so offensive you won't have to be able to. To apply that to something actually helps people so well we hope so I mean I mean we. Certainly we we want to make it clear that that might keep on the toy is. Not designed for therapy in -- and and it's -- it's really just for people's entertainment and it. And and it's cute and you know we think a lot of people fall in love and it. And you know as you say -- it is it is important to us that we're we're. Doing doing the more serious work in -- behind it and and that this will started to keep to keep doing. I ask this question now as lake someone -- an engineering -- used in with the -- -- it to the consumer version. They're like some kind of back door hackable moments to this kind of ingrained in -- Well there's that's gonna be like maker -- hacked in all on every single -- -- a little things in it and so her make her. There's various legal reasons I can't encourage anybody to openness from the that the toy -- right is that will only do -- -- and that McDonald's. Encourage it. That but possibly and if the -- -- is not possible yet but is a free country yes -- yes that's. It's that that does features elegantly but it now. And we're -- -- encouraged to slightly a very cool. -- thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today I think that is. That is maybe the most important version of the create podcast we beverage I would say yes -- -- out -- -- great -- definitely on the -- -- actually -- on shelves and Allison has shown to McCain in life awesome yet I can't -- joining us this week on crave. Let's see what will be talking about next week. Check out the -- -- -- that cnet.com. Or email us. Your a year to keep on clothing accessory requests at crave at cnet.com. These two guys sort.

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