According to the makers, Zeno uses his Academy Award winning artificial intelligence (AI) software, featured in such films as Lord of the Rings, Happy Feet and Ratatouille, to make decisions, reason and even grow smarter over time. He can view a 3D mental image of his environment to determine and control physical action and reactions, much like we do as humans. He then has the ability to navigate, make facial expressions and move his body based on what he sees around him. The Hanson Robotic team has also created a character engine with speech recognition and conversational AI for language reasoning so that Zeno can recognize and remember both speech and faces and interact accordingly.
Introduced at Wired NextFest, the robot has a huge range of movement capabilities with over 28 built-in specialized motors in its legs, torso, arms and face. He is an intelligent character robot that can show emotions with his flexible face and perform stunts with his agile and self-balancing body. He can lie down, get up to standing, gesture with his arms, smile, make eye contact, open and close his eyes and mouth. Unlike ASIMO the system is not autonomous however, being controlled wirelessly via a standard home PC.
David Hanson, Founder of Hanson Robotics believes the “technology incorporated in Zeno has a huge potential for the consumer home entertainment market.” He said that “Zeno’s pre-defined movements and actions have unlimited permutations and he will get smarter and more aware over time. The goal is to bring it to market as a children’s toy, able to tutor, express and teach a variety of different subjects.” Standing at 17” tall and weighing 6 lbs, the physical design is a nod to the beloved Japanese television character, Astro Boy.
The personal robotics industry is growing at a rapid rate, earlier this year researchers at the University of Washington proved the ability to control a robot using human thoughts and a project in the UK is using personal robots to assist children in forming relationships. All of these developments are a sign that the era of viable human-to-robot interaction is upon us, with exciting times ahead in the coming decade.