081511_OfficeRobot - Recvd in e-newsletter from...

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Rec’v’d in e-newsletter from [email protected] The Dawning of the Office Robot 8/12/2011 On a crisp Saturday morning late last fall, outside the Gates Center on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, Michael Clark thought he sensed something odd behind him. Clark, an adjunct faculty member in CMU's Institute for Software Research, looked over his shoulder to find 50 Girl Scouts, many with their faces pressed against the building's glass doors, peering inside at a robot on the other side of the glass. "They all wanted to see the 'Anybot,'" recalls Clark, who has used the robot to teach classes at CMU. "After I brought them inside and gave them a tour, many of them still wanted to walk past the Anybot and pat it on the head." The robot, specifically known as the QB and built by Anybots Inc., has that kind of effect on people. Looking like a cross between a Segway and an ET doll, the QB has the kind of appeal that many robots lack. With its two big "eyes," it looks just human enough to give passersby the warm fuzzies, but not so human that it gives them the creeps. "Its mouth doesn't move and it has no resemblance to human form, other than its 'eyes,'" Clark says. "It has no arms and hands, and with its low torque motors, you can hold it back with just the push of a finger." Indeed, the QB is already starting to gain social acceptance, but its bigger task still awaits. The product's designer, noted roboticist Trevor Blackwell, hopes to place thousands of the QB robots in businesses around the world at $15,000 apiece. His vision: to have the robot serve as an "avatar" - a replacement for a person who can't attend a meeting. His robot consists of a head, with the aforementioned eyes, and a display screen that allows users to show their faces. But it also goes a step farther - being an avatar, it serves as a replacement body for its remote users, enabling them to move around a conference table, wander from office to office, or just meet people in the hallway. "Everybody has meetings and every meeting has a break where people go out in the hall and drink coffee
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and talk," says Clark. "Speaker phones don't move, but an avatar robot can. It can go out in the hall and allow you to talk to people. It does everything except drink coffee."
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081511_OfficeRobot - Recvd in e-newsletter from...

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