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Sony Unveils New Robot - 2002-04-01

Sony Corporation has unveiled a human-like robot with a larger vocabulary than most people. Companies and researchers across the globe are creating new robots for both work and play.

The new SDR4X stands only 60 centimeters tall, but Sony still says it could be part of the family. But it will have to be a wealthy family. Its creators say it will cost as much as a luxury car!

Public Relations Manager for Sony Electronics Jon Piazza says the new robot is much more life-like than Sony's current entertainment robot, Aibo. "The SDR takes that to the next level, with face recognition and the understanding of 60,000 vocabulary words and so forth," he said. "So the exciting thing is that we're actually seeing the future with this type of technology. Things you know we thought about since Star Wars came out, it's unfolding."

Electronics companies across the globe are racing to develop the next great robot for use around the home. Some, such as the SDR4X, are humanoid robots meant to entertain their owners with their walking, talking and tricks. Others are made to do chores, such as mow the lawn or wash the car.

Jennifer McNally, the marketing manager for another firm, Evolution Robotics, says the possibilities are endless. "Generally people want robots to do things for them that they don't want to do anymore, or to do things with them that they really, really enjoy to do,"she said. "So someone might have a robot in the home to wash the dishes or do the laundry or clean the floor. You could even have a robot that could be an education robot and help your kids learn about anything."

Robots could help kids do their homework, or make learning fun, for example.

Rodney Brooks is the Artificial Intelligence Director at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His company, irobot corporation, has developed what it calls "remote presence" robots. They allow their owners to control them from anywhere in the world by using the Internet. He calls this 'robottling.' "Just the other day someone out in an oil field in northern Europe robottled into a robot in Louisiana to a warehouse and checked out what supplies of spare parts were available, and supervised the loading of exactly the right spare parts that they wanted in the remote site so that they didn't get the wrong parts delivered when the plane finally got out to where they were," he said.

Rodney Brooks adds that in 5 to 10 years, he expects to see people in one country doing physical work in another country through robots. And he predicts in the next two to three years, home cleaning robots won't be unusual.

As for the fun side, the industry is developing companion robots for elderly people who are lonely. And Sony expects to put its SDR4X on the market by the end of the year.