categories of intelligence and more has been developed by the Sony Corporation, maker of the smart robotic dog AIBO. Sony began working on its humanoid Sony dream robot (SDR) in 1997. The latest version, significantly advanced, was originally called the SDR 4X II but now has the catchier name QRIO (Curio). It extends the kinesthetic intelligence of ASIMO and adds interpersonal, linguistic, and even musical intelligence in a unit only 58 centimeters (23 inches) tall. At the ROBODEX 2003 show, the broad abilities of this small unit made it the natural choice as master of ceremonies for the parade of varied robots, most of them much larger, that enlivened the event.
QRIO is literally 50 percent smarter than the preceding model because its brain consists of three microprocessor chips rather than two, all of which are specially optimized for high speed. The third chip provides speech synthesis and recognition, replacing an earlier external computer.The improvement in vocabulary is dramatic, from 20 words to at least 20,000, with which the robot is able to hold simple conversations. It also displays a degree of musical intelligence: It sings as well as talks, and can do so in harmony with other QRIO units. Its social interaction abilities, combining visual cognition and linguistic capability, have also come a long way: It greets people it knows by name. It learns new people by asking them to “Please hold still for a minute” then, using its dual camera stereoscopic vision and hearing, memorizes their faces and names. Once a face is learned, the unit can pick it out from a crowd.
The robot also has excellent kinesthetic intelligence along with a superior physical endowment. As I learned from Masahiro Fuita of Sony’s Digital Creatures Laboratory, one of the prime designers of the robot, specially designed actuators give it a particularly smooth gait and motion. In addition, sensors that feed it kinesthetic information keep it well balanced, even to the extent of adjusting its walking style depending on the surface under its feet. In a demonstration by Sony, one of the unit’s most lifelike acts was to squat down as it moved from one kind of flooring to another, examine the new surface, and then resume walking with a different gait. It is extraordinarily agile as well, moving with enough speed and coordination to dance—another facet