Professor Einstein Robot Shows AI Has a Way to Go, But It's all Relative

New Hanson Robotics product brings the German physicist to your desk to answer basic questions.

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AI has come a long way in the last decade, so much so that Elon Musk thinks government should step in before we get a Skynet and terminator situation. Of course, then we get robotic products like the new Einstein robot from Hanson Robotics, and things don't seem quite so scary.

The new Professor Einstein bot is rather cute and can answer some basic questions in an offline mode. However, don't stray too far from the pre-arranged questions or the bot may just look at you and stick out its tongue. In an online mode hooked to home wi-fi, it can pair with the Stein-o-Matic iOS companion app for games, videos and provide more details on the theory of relativity, or give you a biography of who Einstein was. 

The little bot is an interesting novelty, but with a rather steep $300 price tag (although a special on eBay can get it to you for $250). It is the culmination of a Kickstarter project by Hanson and raised almost $113,000 (882,205 in HK$) to fund it. The project went through several iterations before finally settling on this final version.

Here are some basic specs:

  • ARM7 processor
  • Two NiMH rechargeable batteries, for three hours of uncharged life
  • A microphone on its chest, with two additional mics on the sides of the head
  • A camera in its chest for tracking faces and maintaining eye contact
  • Infrared sensors keep the robot from walking off of a table
  • Nine coreless DC motors with custom gearboxes for movement, with five motors in the face alone for different expressions.

Hanson is building a reputation for life-like robots, and thinks that robots offer better interactions than their virtual counterparts. Hanson CTO Andy Rifkin, who used to be a senior executive with toy company Mattel, said that studies have shown “physical embodiment can yield measurable learning gains” in some educational settings (via IEEE Spectrum).

It will be interesting to see how popular the robot becomes, especially given the high price and the short attention spans that can afflict today's children. If nothing else, it can be a cute paperweight that can be used respond to your spouse or kids if they annoy you.

"Albert, stick out your tongue."

Contributing Editor
From The Chatty