Social, humanoid-esque robots have always creeped me out, especially those with a "frubber" (that's flesh-rubber) skin-like exterior. However, the new Zeno R35 social robot with cool spiky hair, a blue Mega Man-like robo-suit and orange soled shoes might just win me over.
After two strenuous years in the making, Robokind is ready to release its kid-friendly humanoid with enhanced capabilities like "real" facial expressions, lip-sync speech and the ability to walk so you can't get away. Zeno was originally modeled after the son of company founder David Hanson who unveiled the first model back in 2007.
Zeno R25 is ideal for kids wanting to learn a new language like Chinese, French or Spanish and has Siri-like web search capabilities when asked a question. With eight separate microphones, the 'bot is able to recognize and respond to familiar voices. It will also be possible later on to load Zeno R25 with books to increase vocabulary. The 'bot is not passive and can initiate learning or games with the person interacting with it. Robokind has already developed packages for schools and autism therapy modules that have shown positive effects when interacting with the Zeno R25. Developers can also modify their Zeno R25 to their heart's content, as the robot is fully open-source.
Since the first prototype, the company has been able to add better capabilities and scale down the price to $2,700, a sixth of the previous R50 model's $16,000 price tag. The company is currently undergoing prototype sample runs before shipping the final models in March. One thing that hasn't changed since the original prototype: it's still darn creepy.