This Could Be Your Very Own Keepon

We've got details on the forthcoming My Keepon little yellow dancing robot toy

2 min read
This Could Be Your Very Own Keepon

We've been wondering how BeatBots' new My Keepon toy is going to compare to the original (especially considering that it's on the order of a thousandth the cost of a research Keepon), but this picture seems to show the forthcoming toy and I'll be honest: on the outside, I can't tell the difference.

As far as what the toy will be able to do, we've got more info on that as well:

My Keepon has two modes, selected with buttons on his "stage."

Dance mode:

My Keepon dances like no other toy! A built-in microphone and state-of-the-art beat detection allows My Keepon to dance in time with the rhythm of clapping, patting, or your music. With an uncanny sense of timing and incredibly fluid movement, My Keepon will have you mesmerized as he grooves to any style. My Keepon will never dance the same way twice, so you will never tire of watching (or joining in).

Touch mode:

My Keepon has an array of invisible sensors underneath his textured skin. Poke, tap, squeeze, or tickle, and My Keepon will react. You can even make it sneeze - just scratch its nose! My Keepon's mood also changes in response to your touch, with emotions ranging from curious, to excited, to sleepy, and everything in between. With My Keepon's rich nonverbal "language" and impossibly cute movements, you will love getting to know his personality and making a new best friend.

My Keepon will also be able to remember different types of interactions and change its behavior based on past history. If you don't play with it for a while, it'll let out "an occasional cry for attention." Expect to see different outfits and accessories show up at some point down the line, as well as a way for programmers to interface with the toy directly.

While we're still waiting to see exactly what it's like to interact with My Keepon, Toys R Us apparently saw it in action and immediately bought the entire first production run, so I guess that's a good sign. Unfortunately, we do now know that My Keepon doesn't include cameras due to cost constraints, and instead relies on touch sensors and sound localization to detect people.

Look for the toy in stores in October for under $50 (it's 35 quid in the U.K.). Since Toys R Us is planning a huge marketing campaign, there's absolutely no way you (or your kids) will be allowed to forget about it. And here's something else not to forget: buying a My Keepon helps fund research Keepons for autistic children. Yay!

[ My Keepon ] via [ Businessweek ] and [ Wow! Stuff ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

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This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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