Aldebaran's Nao robot gets more lifelike

Faster processing and better speech recognition make this humanoid robot out of France suited to work with autistic children.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Aldebaran Robotics

Just in time for Christmas, France's Aldebaran Robotics has upgraded its Nao humanoid robot, making it better at obeying orders for the big cleanup.

Nao Next Gen is the latest version of the popular research robot, and it's looking more and more lifelike.

The 23-inch droid has been outfitted with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and two HD cameras linked to a field-programmable gate array for faster processing of both video streams. Intel Capital led a $13 million investment in Aldebaran earlier this year.

It also boasts better speech recognition with a program called Nuance, allowing Nao to pick out individual words in a conversation.

"With NAO Next Gen coming of age, we shall be able to make it serve organizations that care for autistic children and those losing their autonomy," Aldebaran Chairman Bruno Maisonnier was quoted as saying in a release.

"On top of this new hardware version, we shall be delivering new software functionalities like smart torque control, a system to prevent limb/body collisions, an improved walking algorithm, and more."

Indeed, as seen in the promo vid below, Nao can walk faster. It also has an inertial sensor that can tell it to protect itself when falling and a text-to-speech function for eight languages, as well as four microphones, IR sensors, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Nao can be programmed in a relatively simple fashion with Choregraphe, a GUI and behavior library developed by Aldebaran. It hasn't set a price yet, but other editions have sold to researchers for upward of $14,600.

Adebaran says it has already sold some 2,000 Nao robots worldwide and they're used by hundreds of labs. Nao has its own league in the RoboCup robot soccer tournament, where it's a standard platform.

We're still hoping it becomes a consumer toy with a significantly lower price tag.