Kids, meet Kate the robot. She wants to play with you, help you do your homework, or just give you a big metallic hug while Mom or Dad are deployed overseas. She can't replace your parent, but with her smiling ET-ish visage and gift for gab, she might be able to ease the distance a bit.
Dan Mathias of the Florida-based one-man FutureBots Lab thought up the humanoid telepresence robot specifically as a companion and communication device for kids of remote military service members.
He also thinks Kate (Kids Avatar Teacher and Entertainer) could, like Kaspar the friendly robot, help autistic children improve their social and communication skills or maybe be used in nursing homes to assist Alzheimer's patients.
Standing 45 inches tall and weighing 70 pounds, Kate's certainly pleasant-looking as two-armed wheeled robots go. But she's more than just a pretty face with a fully articulated mouth. She has a total of 22 degrees of freedom; a Microsoft Kinect sensor for motion detection; and a touch-screen Android tablet chest for teleconferencing.
She can even sense carbon monoxide and other hazardous gases and smell smoke to keep companions safe.
Mathias built the Windows XP- and Intel Atom processor-driven Kate in three months and says he plans to add solar panels so she can play outside. He does not currently have the backing of companies or universities but is definitely in the market for support.
So, what do you think of Kate? Take a look at her in the video below, and see if you can keep up with what she's saying. Girl's a talker.