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Robot Butlers Are Finally a Reality

REEM robots

PAL Robotics has been working on its REEM-x lineup of wheeled humanoid robots for some time. Now it's just revealed its newest edition, simply called REEM, which is its first commercial offering. He's a genuine robot butler.

PAL, a Spanish company with interests in the United Arab Emirates, describes REEM as a "humanoid robot, equipped with an autonomous navigation system, a touch screen" and notes that he is "capable of roaming through any kind of surroundings" thanks to the simple wheeled-base assembly. The company thinks it can be used as "a guide, an entertainer, a logistical tool." And its large chest-based touchscreen has a "variety of applications," such as "displaying a map of the surrounding area" or for "teleassistance." The droid is highly customizable thanks to a modular design, and can be customized for each customer's needs.

REEM's 1.65 meters tall, and can trolley along at about 5km per hour (for comparison, the average height of people in the US is just over 1.7 meters, and a typical human walking pace is just under 5km per hour). His base is a rigid wheeled platform that contains the motors and the lithium battery cell that gives the robot about eight hours of autonomous movements (a typical working day is about eight hours—see what PAL is aiming at here?). But the upper torso of the bot is more android-like, and includes motorized arms and gripping hands, a movable head that's paced with sensors that let it track and recognize faces, and a multimedia touch screen. There's also a platform on the base so the bot can carry objects. But quite apart from that, REEM represents something of a breakthrough: The development of the various earlier REEM incarnations garnered lots of attention for PAL, but this is the pinnacle of the company's achievements and he's its first commercial product. In fact, around 20 are already in construction for clients in the Middle East.

And perhaps more than that, REEM may be the first genuine humanoid service droid "butler bot" that's available on sale--making good the promise of countless sci-fi movies and shows. Watching the video of its movements, you'll be able to see how fluidly the android moves, and how convincing its head movements are. This is a robot you'll probably be happy talking to if you met it while lost in a foreign airport. That robotic future you've been reading so much about? It's practically here.

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