(No, there’s not a Playboy spread on the way.)
AILA’s a product of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, and she’s unusual in the typically masculine world of robotics as she’s unashamedly female (as far as these sorts of definitions have any meaning in the world of robotics … outside of the nascent sex-robot industry, that is). She’s humanoid and highly flexible with all the right degrees of limb freedom to emulate lifting/carrying maneuvers in the same way you or I might. But instead of going for advanced self-balancing bipedal locomotion, the German team has given the bot six independently driven swiveling wheels, reminiscent of some of the rovers trekking across Mars. This simplifies the problem of getting around, allows for extremely precise positioning and, when you begin to talk about putting AILA’s into production, will mean significantly lower unit costs.
Stereoscopic vision adds to the human-esque format this robot takes, but AILA’s real trick is her RFID tag-sensing powers. Instead of having to do all sorts of complex, power-intensive (and ultimately, expensive) machine-vision object-recognition tasks, all AILA has to do to work out what objects are within reach is scan through her RFID object library. This means she’s a bit limited to only working with objects she knows, but it means in order to pick stuff up and move it to the places you command, the most difficult thing she has to do is calculate how best to carry something.
She’s evidently a prototype gynoid, but unlike ASIMO or some of the more high-end research robots you may’ve seen she actually represents the sort of affordable automated task assistant that may, sooner than you think, end up in your workplace/restaurant/bar.
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