Now, Japan’s NEC Corporation thinks it can sell robotic butlers, and to do so, it’s using the power of cuteness. The machine NEC just revealed is called PaPeRo Petit, and it is a reincarnation of some older robot tech NEC has been working on for years under its Partner-type Personal Robot research program. At just inches high and less than three pounds, the new machine is much smaller than its predecessors, but it still packs in impressive tech. This includes camera-based facial recognition, microphones and speakers, and a sensor package that can monitor the environment by measuring temperature and distances to objects.
These features mean PaPeRo is smart enough to act as a robotic butler, guard, or just a friendly companion. The sensor suite means it could act as a home-security service that alerts you remotely if something unexpected happens when you’re away from home, and it could act as an interface for a parent to speak to kids when away on business. The robot’s recognition skills and ability to connect to the web to look up data means it could be useful as a guard and companion for elderly people, where it could serve up health advice or help with shopping.
NEC has taken a new step with its robot and opened up the platform to third parties. It’s seeking a manufacturing partner and suggests a commercial PaPeRo may be on sale as soon as early 2014 for a price in the range of a few hundred dollars, plus an ongoing service fee.