Latest Robots Showcase Security, Teaching Skills

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Robots, already widely found on factory floors, are increasingly encroaching on the human world and a number of robots on display at the RoboDevelopment conference in Santa Clara, California, were programmed to not only entertain, but to secure homes, direct lost people to stores in malls and teach English.

With an astronaut's uniform, Roboware's futuristic E3 is an educational and entertainment robot that can teach English, play music and responds to voice commands, accepting instructions to dance and move. On display at the Microsoft booth at the conference, the robot can identify items through a built-in camera and even deliver beer cans, said Young Soon Kim, a Microsoft evangelist.

As an added bonus there's also some security features that mean it will respond to distress calls and allow remote viewers to see home images through its camera.

The robot is built on the Windows XP platform and Roboware is looking add more applications depending on usage scenarios, Kim said. The robot will be reaching the consumers next year and is expected to be priced at around US$3,000.

Also on display was PatrolBot, MobileRobots' robot that avoids obstacles while directing itself to another location. It can be used as a mall kiosk that can direct visitors to stores based on their interest or even take them there, said William Kennedy, chief technology officer at MobileRobots. The robot has a camera and proximity sensors that help it navigate across obstacles.

The event also showcased some commercial robots.

A robot to pick the entire citrus crop in the U.S. state of Florida is being developed by Energid, a robotics company, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Vision Robotics, a robotics company. Last year, it took 50,000 people to pick the entire citrus crop of 30 billion pieces of fruit, including oranges and grapefruit. The robot, which could get to work in two years, will make that process easier and more efficient, said James English, technical officer at Energid.

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