In the previous parts of this blog series I have introduced the big contribution of robotics for the education of young tech students in The i-Robot: A new approach to robotics to make our life easier and safer, Part 1, to medical surgery operation i-Robot: A new approach to robotics to make our life easier and safer, Part 2, and to smart house resources management The i-Robot: A new approach to robotics to make our life easier and safer, Part 3.
The next step is the robot that is able to interact with humans; this amazing example of an application of electronics technology to robotics is the Pepper Robot, the “World's First Personal Robot That Reads Emotions” which is made by SoftBank Robotics of the SoftBank Group Corporation (see Figure 1):
The Pepper Robot (Source: SoftBank Group)
This robot opens the way to new scenarios, especially after the announcement of collaboration between the SoftBank Robotics and the Microsoft Company:
“SoftBank Robotics Corp. (headquarters: Minato-ku, Tokyo; President: Fumihide Tomizawa) and Microsoft Corporation (headquarters: Redmond, Washington, USA; CEO: Satya Nadella) have announced a strategic collaboration in the field of cloud robotics.
As a first step, Microsoft and SoftBank Robotics will work together to create a next-generation cloud-enabled robot using “Pepper” — SoftBank Robotics' humanoid robot — and Microsoft's cloud-based Azure IoT Suite. They will then work together to build a next-generation in-store solution for the retail industry, using Microsoft's Surface Hub large-screen collaboration device and Surface 2-in-1 devices together with these new cloud-enabled robots to serve customers in person”. (Source: SoftBank Robotics Press Releases 2016)
One of the multiple applications of this type of robot is to interact with people from different countries, speaking different languages, by mean of a vocal recognition setup and a multi-language translator integrated into the robot.
There are many contributions of electronics technology to the realization of this incredible robot, like it is shown in Figure 2:
The contents of the Pepper Robot (Source: Nikkei.com)
The Pepper Robot contains many electronic components, like microphones and touch sensors; the data coming from the peripherals is processed by a computer, acting as the brain of the Robot. To achieve this task, the Intel Atom microprocessor was utilized. The human voices of the people near the robot are received by means of its microphones, acting as the ears of the robot.
Moreover the electronics technology offers the possibility to receive and process the human voice by mean of dedicated voice recognition hardware like the Arduino EasyVR Shield 3.0 module (see Figure 3):
Figure 3: The SparkFun EasyVR Shield Demo. (Source: YouTube)
Robotics science is thus strongly enhanced by electronics technology to realize an innovative robot like the Pepper Robot, with an interesting potential to be powered by means of the Internet of Things technology and the voice recognition feature that makes this robot able to read human emotions. That’s a very interesting aspect of the i-Robot approach: do you think that this type of robot will be massively utilized in the near future? What type of use would you suggest for this robot?