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information that it predicts (based on
their search habits) what they may
Realizing just how forward-thinking Google’s founders are, I can
see variations of Google Now such as
the above lapel pin, and even more
advanced AI based verbal assistants in
autonomous cars and advanced
robotic applications. Go to Google to
learn more, not just about Google
Now, but also about Siri and Cortana.
This article would not be
complete without mentioning
(again, since I’ve written about her
twice this year already) Cynthia
Breazeal and her unique robot
shown in Figure 7. Jibo is of special
interest to robot enthusiasts, not
just for its robot appearance with
the swivel head and base, but also
for its ability to hear and respond to
verbal commands and questions.
Figure 8 shows the complex and
fast-acting dual axes that allow the
robot to quickly turn about.
Jibo is more than a verbal
personal assistant like the three just
discussed, and even more than the
Amazon Echo that I will describe next.
Jibo is known as the ‘world’s first
social robot for the home.’ Jibo truly is
a socially-interactive robot that’s able
to recognize and connect with
It may not have the eerie and
commanding presence of Scarlett
Johansson’s voice portraying
‘Samantha’ in the movie, Her, but Jibo
does have a real personality. Dr.
Breazeal — a professor at MIT and one
of the world’s best known robot
designers — has nailed the perfect
social home robot design.
Backers have been waiting
patiently as the introduction date has
been delayed until October, but
Breazeal and her team want to
present the backers and other buyers
the best product they can. Software
developers have cooperated in
developing many software routines to
allow Jibo to control household
appliances, lights, and other devices
via human speech.
One of the latest is sound
localization developed by early
adopters that will allow the robot to
locate the source of a voice and
follow that person around during a
‘conversation’ with its head.
Jibo hackathons on both US
coasts have used Jibo SDKs with
Indiegogo and InDemand developers
to evolve some amazing capabilities
for the 11” robot. I cannot wait to get
my hands on a Jibo, after seeing the
growing number of videos.
Companies and universities
outside the US are also developing
quality speaker-independent speech
recognition systems such as the
Chinese Internet company, Baidu.
Their Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) has
been using deep learning to develop
Deep Speech that uses an artificial
neural network for direct translation
and transcribing. They have been
successful in Mandarin Chinese
recognition as well as English — two
widely diverse languages.
In mid May, Google announced
their newest product: Google Home
(shown in Figure 9). It’s obvious that
the technical giant, Alphabet is going
after the Echo series of its
competitor, Amazon. The actual
launch will not be until this fall, but
it is quite obvious that it is intended
to be a smart speaker with voice
recognition and answers connected
to the cloud, just like the Echo series
that I’ll discuss next.
Answering to the words “OK,
Google,” the Google Home will
have access to Google’s massive
database to answer queries via the
internal speaker. Home will have a
built-in app to supply notifications,
and be handy for appointments,
airline schedules, and similar
scheduling needs. Google is also
upping the sound quality over the
Echo to allow better music playback. It
will supposedly be more adaptable to
having multiple units around the
home. I am looking forward to
actually testing a Home when it
arrives this fall.
Amazon Echo Series
I mentioned in the beginning of
this article that the Amazon Echo, in
my opinion, was the changing force in
speech recognition for mobile robots.
I wrote a few paragraphs on the Echo
in the January issue after a month of
testing. To be a bit more specific, it is
the unique seven-microphone array
that allows the device to distinguish
human speech within a noisy
environment. The Amazon Echo Series
is shown in Figure 10.
Siri, Cortana, and Google Now
Figure 7. Cynthia
Breazeal and her
Figure 8. The complex dual-axis
mechanism of Jibo.