Widening the appeal of humanoid robots

21st April 2016
Joe Bush

Software from Belgian-based company Zora Bots is helping to bring humanoid robots out of the realms of science fiction and into reality. The software has been designed for the Aldebaran Nao and Pepper humanoid robots that have made significant ground in the development of new generation robotics over the last two years.

The Zora software is able to give life to humanoid robots and make them available for senior health care use. Relationships between humans and robots have changed and the Zora application has provided solutions for many tasks in healthcare. Zora lives today with the elderly in residential care centres, livens up days in schools where Zora helps young autistic children, and has also found its place in the hotel business where the robot offers a new experience to clients. For the Zora Bots company, the retail market is the next step.

Zora weighs only 5.7kg and stands just over 57cm (22”). Controlled via a tablet by health professionals, Zora can lead a physical therapy class, read out TV programmes, weather forecasts or local news. “This humanoid solution is not there to do just any jobs. She is a tool and like any other tool they have in a care facility for the elderly she is there to help,” said Tommy Deblieck, co-CEO of Zora. Furthermore, the robot is being studied as a way to reduce cognitive decline.

Zora can also, to some extent, help fight the feeling of loneliness: “A lot of elderly people feel alone. Solitude is something which is horrible for a lot of elderly people. Many people don’t have the time to visit their families and they can find some kind of relationship with the robot and that is a nice thing to do,” added Fabrice Goffin, one of the Zora’s creators.

In addition, Zora has also been integrated at several hotels as a member of the reception desk. Offering a new vision of hospitality and a new experience for travellers, getting in contact with a humanoid robot is fun. According to Goffin, Zora’s skills turn out to be very useful for repetitive tasks that hotels and stores have to manage – such as providing dates and times, explaining customer policy and providing tourist information about the surrounding area.

The robot is equipped with cameras, loudspeakers and some microphones, and is designed to perform human-like gestures: “We have been very careful in programming exactly how Zora interacts with people through human gestures such as blinking, making eye contact and slight head movements,” specified Deblieck.

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