November 29, 2004

A Robot for the Masses

Originally from NYT > Magazine, reBlogged by ts

Meet RobosapienTotally enjoyable article about Robosapien, “the $99 humanoid that belches, dances and, if you know what you’re doing, picks up your socks,” and its creator, former NASA/Los Alamos roboticist Mark Tilden. (Robosapien also appeared recently here on shey.net, demonstrating its ability to charm the ladies.) An excerpt:
…Tilden made many of the final decisions about the toy’s development. He decided on its appearance and character. Should the robot be like a Japanese TV robot? RoboCopish? ”Star Wars”-like? Tilden wanted it to be a robot that looked like a robot and was ”pure bot,” without any merely decorative features. Tilden insisted that the robot not speak English, or any other language. Instead, he told me, ”I put my own body gestures and even sounds in there.” When the machine grunts, it is Tilden’s recorded grunt you hear, his ”ouch,” wolf-whistle and belch. If the original prototype had 24 transistors, Robosapien has millions in one small, intricately patterned board controlling all seven motors and one tiny chip holding 12 kilobytes of programming. Tilden recalled: ”We took analog, converted it into digital, through my skills and the skills of many designers, and came up with a seven-motor design that basically beats any of its rivals by up to five times in price.”