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March 18, 2005

Home Robot Baby-Sits Children



Personal Tech Pipeline

NEC plans to publicly demonstrate this month a radically updated prototype version of its PaPeRo home robot, which now interacts far more naturally with people and features amazing new capabilities.

The robot is designed both to interact with children and also provide some minor home security.

The current prototype is called the "Childcare Robot PaPeRo." It is designed to entertain and even watch over children between the ages of 3 and 12. The robot comes with a special jacket that kids can wear, which is equipped with a wireless microphone and an ultrasound transmitter that favors the child's words over any background noise. PaPeRo sings children's songs, dances and can make cell phone calls for kids. It also has been given something of a personality -- entertainment skills were developed in consultation with a Japanese comedian.

It also has built-in face recognition, so it remembers the faces of family members. If the robot runs into anything (such as a small child), it stops immediately. Sensors on PaPeRo's head enable it to respond to touch.

The PaPeRo is better at interacting with people in part because it hears better. Equipped with eight microphones, speech signal processing and recognition technology, the robot can precisely locate the speech source, and also recognize and understand commands in a noisy home environment -- even while the robot itself is talking.

But it doesn't just interact with the spoken word. Handwritten-character recognition technology allows the robot to read what people write. It remembers peoples names and even does math.

NEC develops the PaPeRo in conjunction with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.

The upcoming demonstration will take place in the Robot Fureai Room in the Robot Station area of EXPO 2005 AICHI, which is being held from March 25 to September 25 in Aichi, Japan.

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