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Meet Wakamaru, the Linux-powered humanoid robot

Apr 22, 2003 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

[Updated 9:20am PDT] — As reported earlier, Wakamaru, an experimental Linux-powered humanoid robot developed by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is making a guest appearance at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) held this week in San… Francisco. The 3.3 foot tall, 60 pound robot is described as the first human-size robot capable of providing companionship or functioning as a caretaker and house sitter. The battery-operated robot moves about on wheels and recharges itself when its batteries run low. (A larger photo is available here.)

Wakamaru was developed by the Robotics Group of the New Products & Space Systems Department at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and has an internal software platform that was developed using MontaVista Software's embedded Linux distribution and tool suite. Wakamaru project manager Ken Onishi attributed the choice of embedded operating system to its “sophisticated software base” and “superior networking capabilities,” which enabled the team to “focus on the complex programming that makes this new robot human-like.” Additionally, “the robust operating system plays an important role in enabling Wakamaru to service a household 24 hours a day,” Onishi added.

The following description of Wakamaru's capabilities was provided in a statement released by MontaVista . . .

Wakamaru features continuous access to the Internet and comes equipped with voice and face recognition capabilities that allow the robot to search for and follow voices, faces, and movements. It has the ability to comprehend and interact with humans (such as discussing daily news it obtains via the Internet) based on a built-in dictionary and voice recognition, and can be programmed to call or email a designated person, a hospital or security firm if it notices a problem. When connecting remotely to Wakamaru via its built-in camera-equipped mobile phone, users can see images of the house the robot serves and even communicate with family members at home.

An informative online presentation about Wakamaru and its development project is available here. The presentation includes information about the history of the project, the robot's internal architecture, target specifications, and service provision concept — plus, lots of pictures. The presentation summarizes Wakamaru's concept and capabilities as . . .

  • A robot that is friendly to people and useful for your life at home.
  • Lives with family members. Speaks spontaneously in accordance with family member's requirement. Has its own role in a family.
  • Natural and enriched communication in accordance with life scenes. Recognizes approximately 10,000 words required for daily life and provides topics in accordance with life scenes and communicates in a friendly manner using gestures.
  • Autonomous action in accordance with its own rhythm of life. The robot has its daily rhythm of life, moves in accordance with time and purpose, automatically charges its batteries and lives with family members.
  • Information and services provided by connecting itself to the Internet. Connects itself to the Internet to provide various external information and services and reflects the information obtained from the contact with the owner in the succeeding service provision.

Wakamaru is expected to be initially introduced into the Japanese market beginning in 2004, priced at about 1 million yen (approx. US $14,250).

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