Hailing from somewhere between Silicon Valley and the Uncanny Valley, Hanson Robotics' Sophia is the unofficial face of robots right now. But while she's busy on UN business or hanging with Jimmy Fallon, her little sister could soon be teaching kids to code. Meet Little Sophia, a new toy robot that looks like an educational Alexa in an unnerving humanoid body.
Little Sophia stands just 14 in (36 cm) tall and is the spitting image of her big sister, with an expressive human face sitting on top of a stylized robot body. And of course, she wouldn't be complete without the window in the back of her head, revealing the electronics inside. Little Sophia's face is more cartoonish than big Sophia, to the point where she kind of looks like someone put the head of a Bratz doll on the body of a Mega Man action figure.
According to Hanson Robotics, Little Sophia is designed to pack in many of the functions of the full-size robot – but her feature list sounds more or less like many of the other home assistants and educational robots already out there.
Little Sophia can track and recognize faces, walk and dance. Like many others, she responds to voice prompts and commands, but it seems like she does so in a more conversational way, by telling jokes, singing songs, playing games and chatting. Her voice sounds a bit stilted and unemotional, but that's at least partly offset by her face, which is more expressive than most.
To cap it off, she even has an augmented reality function that dresses her in quirky hats and costumes, for Snapchat-style selfies.
While there's nothing wrong with fun and games, Little Sophia is also designed to earn her keep as a teacher of sorts. Using an accompanying app for iOS and Android devices, users can program their robot using the Blockly and Python languages. Targeted at ages 7 to 13, the idea is to inspire kids, and girls in particular, to develop an interest in the ever-important STEM fields.
Though Little Sophia looks like she'll hold her own thanks to the star power of her sister, she is wandering into a very crowded arena. Anki's Cozmo and Vector robots are also pretty smart, with the latter boasting many of Little Sophia's home assistant features. Sphero has a whole host of educational and entertaining robots, from a chatty Spider-Man to programmable robo-balls and drivable Star Wars droids. And that's without going into all the other robotic aliens and caterpillars also vying for the attention of youngsters.
Hanson Robotics is seeking funding for Little Sophia on Kickstarter, where it's already raised more than half of the US$75,000 goal with 59 days remaining. Super Early Bird pledges are available for the first day of the campaign, where a Little Sophia can be snapped up for $99, before the price jumps up to $149. If all goes to plan, the robots should be at your door by the end of the year.
Check out Little Sophia in the campaign video below.
Source: Hanson Robotics
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