Saturday, July 20, 2019

Why I say, “The NAO Robot More Than Ever!”

 After almost five years of experience in assessing multiple robots, I remain convinced that the NAO Humanoid Robot is in a class by itself. As a matter of fact, I believe that the NAO robot has risen to a new plateau where it rises and stands alone (no pun intended) and is now even more functional and versatile. Be assured that this is not just my own myopic opinion. With others, I have assessed many, many robots to see if they can surpass NAO. The phenomenon of NAO’s continues and its adoption and its ever-expanding functionality can be evidenced by the interactions that I have with users and developers worldwide.
A picture containing indoor, wall, bathroom, toilet

Description automatically generatedInitially, NAO was a first mover in humanoid robots, especially for the university research community. They adopted, applied and used NAO to discover the interaction between humans and robots and, it continues to be adopted for use in even more leading-edge research. It is my belief that the continued evolution of NAO in the research community is now being driven not alone by its marvelous engineering and software functionality but more by the growing discoveries about the nature of human-robot interaction (HRI). What do you want the robot to do and how should it react? NAO fits supremely well into research models demanding a full-bodied construct facilitated by its humanoid (human-like form and degrees of movement freedom) capacities. I clearly see that NAO is now being driven evermore by its ability to incorporate, interact and respond using the emerging wave of integrated artificial intelligence (AI) software schema. I have seen NAO engage in AI-powered conversational dialogues to help learn a new language, connect to IBM’s WATSON and even read postings on a whiteboard in a hospital nursing ward to aid in decision making.
The more exciting observation is that NAO and its global application developers have enabled NAO to assert its prominence by delivering practical, real-world use cases.  It is a new era for NAO. The previous era was characterized by the dialogue that earlier surrounded NAO. “OK, I see it. But, what does it do?”. This new era demonstrates that answers to that question can be found in innovative NAO behavior applications that are actually being used today in autism behavior interventions, assisted medical care in pediatric hospitals, delivering uplifting social engagement in skilled nursing facilities that help reduce the trauma of isolation, in libraries advancing community digital literacy, in schools advancing STEM robotics programs, in classrooms engaging students in new subjects, even explaining art in an art retail showroom. A new era for sure. Now comes NAO as a powerful stand-alone presenter of custom PowerPoint educational presentations and AI-powered new language instruction. These are examples of the growing number answers to the question author Steven Wasic proffered in 2010 (SinglularityHUB Jan 5, 2010): “What will be the killer APP for NAO?” If I understand the question correctly, that question has now been answered. Many times, over.
I was originally moved by the NAO intro video” The Future is NAO”
Great never gets old! Inspiring never gets tiring! The “Future is NAO” is more prophetic today than even when it was introduced.
Underlying it all is, of course, the fact that NAO has proven its position as the true humanoid leader but even more so in the face of so many recent failures in robot attempts. NAO endures as an industrial-grade product. NAO’s caretaking development engineers at SoftBank Robotics working in design, software, and hardware continue to advance the NAO humanoid platform with ever-increasing and amazing version enhancements that are now in its sixth evolution.
While it is always interesting to see a robot deliver hamburgers and another clean windows it is more rewarding and I find it more meaningful, to see children on the autism spectrum positively engage and socially progress, to see children in hospitals feel less pain and anxiety and to see the elderly in an elder-care facilities exercise, laugh and want to take NAO for a walk! Having a mother write to me that NAO helped rediscover her son who was fast fading due to autism and to see a child let himself down out of his wheelchair to the surprise of everyone in order to have his picture taken with NAO are examples of why I say “NAO more than ever!”.

Mike Radice is Chairman of the Technology Advisory for ChartaCloud ROBOTTECA. Comments:

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