ALL AI, ALL THE TIME!
Zeno is a 100 percent artificial
telligence robot running from a PC. “The
PC sends motor control signals wirelessly
to Zeno, and Zeno sends sensor data
including streaming video wirelessly to
the PC,” says Dr. David Hanson. The PC
processes the video data comprising
he faces of people around Zeno and
the audio data from people talking
Zeno can do everything that past
Hanson robots can do and more.
Previous efforts include the Philip K. Dick
android — a technological portrait of the
famous author — which won the
American Association for Artificial
Intelligence first place award in 2005.
“Our current Character Engine is
much more powerful than the Philip K.
Dick android software or the software
running our Jules, Joey, and Einstein
robots,” says Dr. Hanson.
Hanson’s robots are fully
autonomous, interactive robots that
relate in a human-like manner. They make
eye contact, recognize people, and hold
“When the $250 Zeno is available in
2009, it will perform most of these
functions even without a PC, using an
embedded version of our Character
Engine. With the wireless connection to
the PC, though, it will be even smarter,
and with the extended AI on our server
bank, across the network, little Zeno will
be one of the smartest robots in the
world, almost frighteningly smart,” Dr.
play alone, ignoring that person.”
In order to tell the kind people
from those who are rude, Zeno uses a
unique data structure to remember
people; a data structure Hanson calls
People Objects. The People Objects
contain photos of people, their names,
memories of interactions with those
people, facts about them, topics of
discussion and how the robot “felt”
when interacting with each person.
“This way, the robot builds emotional
memories which guide his interactions
and motives,” says Hanson.
expressions, human gestures, and
common objects, explains Dr. Hanson.
its Worth Again
The flexibility that modular programming offers is imperative to
enable researchers and developers to
combine the complex elements of AI
that make it possible to simulate the
equally complex brains in human
beings, according to Dr. Hanson.
“We hope this focus on intelligent
characters will foster rapid progress in
sociable AI, helping to give rise to
friendly AI — the sort of AI that feels
compassion towards us, and can help
to prevent the nightmarish future of
unfriendly AI so common in sci-fi.”
“We have authors who construct
the personalities for our robots both as
works of literary art and state-of-the-art
AI,” says Hanson. These authors define
the robot’s motives in doing things,
their intentions, and their will.
Hanson’s Character Engine pursues the
objectives of the robot’s will while it
interacts with the world.
Zeno is a social robot. So, it will
respond positively to socially positive
people and back away from rude
people. “If a person is kind to the
robot, for example, Zeno will seek to
spend more time with them. If a
person is rude, on the other hand,
Zeno will be cold and distant, and seek
other people to interact with or will
Hanson Robotics unveiled Zeno to
the public in September. As a result, an
Associated Press article covering the
fantastic new robot appeared in more
than 200 newspapers with circulations
in the millions.
Zeno has since appeared on Good
Morning America, which has five
million viewers. Zeno has also been on
CNN and NBC and in the pages of PC
Magazine and any number of other
publications. Tens of thousands saw
Zeno at WIRED’s Nextfest — the WIRED
magazine technology fair. Zeno’s
estimated exposure as of this writing is
more than 45 million Americans,
according to Hanson.
Zeno has his own storyboard with
other characters of Hanson’s design so
he’s ready to star in his own sci-fi film
production. Plans for Zeno include
mass production at a retail price under
$300 per unit. SV
Working with Zeno live
Other Hanson robots
12 SERVO 01.2008
Is Zeno portraying a sense of
wonder, of curiosity?
Zeno face close-up, side view.