NAO, the small but mighty anthropomorphic robot manufactured by the French company Aldebaran, is evolving. Already the planet’s most acclaimed fully programmable, autonomous robot for education and research with over 5000 operating in more than seventy countries; NAO EVOLUTION, the new generation, sports several advancements over its successful predecessor.
NAO EVOLUTION is the same height as the older model (58 CM), but with with new metal gears in the neck, hips, legs, and ankles making it stronger, new noise dampening soles on its feet making it quieter and new, better designed finger grips making it more skillful. Says Bruno Maisonnier, founder and CEO of Aldebaran, "This new phase is fully in line with our vision of eventually offering the greatest possible number of humanoid robots for a variety of purposes." These enhancements also went a long way toward making the 2014 Robocup soccer tournament in Brazil last month even more exciting than usual. In this tournament, unlike the human FIFA Cup winner, the German robot team lost in the finals to an Australian team, 5 to 1. NAO, by the way, has been the robot soccer league’s standard platform since 2009.
NAO EVOLUTION also has a new operating system, NAOqi 2.0, that Aldebaram says will improve interaction between humans and the robot by allowing developers to program complex sequences take advantage of NAO’s 4 new directional microphones for improving sound source location and new sonar telemeters for better obstacle detection and distance estimation. Bruno Maisonnier hopes that "Apart from schools and universities, we would like companies and the developer community to get hold of our robots and create applications that will ensure the success of NAO in the future."
In that “future,” Monsieur Maisonnier hopes to include a team of humanoid robots to take on the 2050 FIFA World Cup winners. That’s right, Big Blue taught us a few years ago that a computer could outplay a chessmaster; NAO’s descendents will go up against the best human soccer team in the world a few years down the road in 2050. As you might imagine, there is still a long way to go…
And the only way to get there is with more research. And more research is going to require more STEM education. And ironically the best STEM education is provided by...you guessed it! Robots! Robots like NAO EVOLUTION and curricula provided by...you got it right again! RobotsLAB!