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The Cutebot

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Robots are rarely described as cute or personable, and Tomomasa Sato, an electrical engineer at the University of Tokyo, sees this as a serious failing. If robots are ever to become common in homes, he says, they will have to be designed to communicate with people in some very clear, simple manner. To that end Sato and his colleagues have created a puppy-size robot that expresses itself using only body language. He envisions the robot as the interface for a computerized home, with cameras, microphones, and other sensors mounted on walls. In such a home you could point at a book, say, that you wanted the robot to bring to you. The room’s computer may fail to recognize the direction you are pointing in, and then the expressive robot inclines its neck to express ‘I don’t understand where you are pointing,’ says Sato. Behavior can be a much more intuitive input device than a keyboard.

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