A journey with Aisoy
Nowadays it is more an more question of companion robots, which represent a category of service robots and are designed to offer some kind of affective link with their owner.
They are robots capable of interactions with humans going beyond the usual LEDs, LCDs and other computer oriented displays. We are dealing here with speech synthesizes, speech recognition, facial expression, body expression,...
The PARO can be considered as the precursor of this progeny, and the results it has produced in the domain of communication with autistic children have demonstrated a significant potential of this new form of man-machine communication. Several products are available now on the market, such as the famous NAO from Aldebaran Robotics or the Q.bo from The Corpora. These robots are very advanced and capable devices, but they are still very expensive. Even considering the recent price drop of the NAO, it is still in the 5000 Euros range, and same for the Q.bo.
A quite atypical product emerges : the Aisoy from Aisoy Robotics, a small Spanish startup (like The Corpora by the way). For 250 Euros tax included in France (and even 160 if you buy the DIY kit), they propose a small stationary robot shaped as a funny character offering the following features :
- facial animation (eyes, eyebrows, vertical and horizontal head motion)
- a camera located beyond one of its eyes
- a microphone
- a speaker
- 3 capacitive touch sensors
- a multi-axial accelerometer
- a bright RGB LED on the belly
- a 7x10 red LED matrix at the mouth location, able to display text and graphics
- an internal Freescale board ((FRDM-KL25Z) coupled with a home-made interface board for managing the embedded sensors and actuators, the Freescale board being compatible with the mBed environment already presented in our web site
- an external Raspberry Pi (BBB option being planned) for the high level logic (AI et al.) of the bot
On the software side, in its latest version (v3 at the time of writing) the Aisoy is powered by ROS and in addition to driving the sensors and actuators, this includes the following features :
- speech synthesizes
- speech recognition
- chat bot
- behavior engine (f.i. if you turn it upside down or shake it, it will be unhappy and will express it)
- video processing (OpenCV)
- graphical tool (AIDIA) for behavior programming without coding
- C/C++ and Python programming of course, but also Scratch
As you may realize, all this is quite appealing.
This section is thus aimed at sharing with you my discovering while exploring the Aisoy and evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. Since I plan to use it for professional research works too, related to ambient assisted living for elderly by using smart building capabilities connected to advanced devices such as robotics systems, the evaluation of the beast will thus be two folded, and not only hobbyist oriented. It will also allow providing complementary technical information in addition to what is already available in Aisoy and ROS web sites.
In addition to articles focusing on various precise aspects as you are used to find on our web site, I have started to keep a blog with my day to day adventures.
Voila, time to enter the heart of the matter now