Where's the robot revolution already? It's 2010! Aren't we supposed to be hip-deep in droids by now? Well, Spanish robot developer Francisco Paz thinks he's got the makings of a proverbial Ford Model T for robots, a cute little number called Qbot.
Qbot may lack arms and legs, and it may look like a knockoff of NEC's perennially underemployed PaPeRo, but it's got several features that make it interesting. One is that it's designed to be an interactive home robot based on readily available open-source software and hardware for DIY upgrades. Another is that it's designed to be cheap enough to garner a large user community.
The current prototype is about 18 inches tall and weighs 19-24 pounds. It scoots around on three wheels and avoids obstacles with four infrared and ultrasonic sensors; it also has high-def Webcam eyes for stereoscopic vision and face detection, and three microphones for speech recognition. LEDs provide facial expression, while speakers allow speech synthesis.
Paz has revealed little about himself, but his Web site is registered in Madrid. He says he's been developing Qbot for about five years. As he describes on his blog, the project was inspired by a desire to create a small home robot like a cat or dog. He has quoted University of Tokyo engineering professor Tomomasa Sato's call for an open-source, globally standardized robot that will be the Ford Model T of consumer robotics. Sato believes a standard bot could inspire tens of thousands of engineers around the world to help realize the dream of having a useful personal robot in every home.
Could pint-sized Qbot become the spark for this revolution? We'll be watching for details on pricing and release date. Until then, it looks like a cute concept.