As robots go, mine Keepon shows up underwhelming. It stands around 10 inches high and also looks prefer two tennis balls fused together.

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In at an early stage 2007, Keepon's invetor posted a video clip of the robot dancing to indie rock. The video clip turned into an internet sensationVia Businessweek
As robots go, my Keepon shows up underwhelming. It stands around 10 inch high and looks choose two tennis balls unify together. It has no arms, no antennae, and also no laser beams. What the does have actually is a wicked sense of rhythm. Fire increase the stereo and My Keepon starts grinding away, rotate its torso and also thumping that is head come the beat.

My Keepon likewise has the backing of among the world’s biggest toy stores, playthings “R” Us, which has actually the exclusive U.S. Legal rights to market the robot, originally a therapeutic device for autistic children. The retailer will start lining the shelves with My Keepons in so late October, priming the to be the big holiday hit. By Christmas, if the bet payment off, mine Keepon’s job arc will certainly look a lot choose Dr. Phil’s: native therapist to globally recognizable celebrity. “When you see it rocking out, you just can’t aid but love it,” states Richard Barry, a vice-president at playthings “R” Us.

Keepon’s story begins around seven years earlier with Hideki Kozima, a Japanese expert in man-made intelligence and also robotics in ~ the institution of Project architecture at Miyagi University. Kozima theorized the an emotive robot could aid autistic children, who can be overwhelmed in face-to-face interactions, by to reduce the complexities of communication to a few simple gestures. A boy pats the robot ~ above the head. It responds through a playful bob. The child talks come the robot. It transforms to challenge him and also nods.

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To check his idea, Kozima produced Keepon, a fuzzy, mouthless robot packed v $30,000 worth of machinery, sensors, and computer chips. (The name is a portmanteau that the Japanese word for yellow, kiiroi, and also the onomatopoeia pon for bounce.) In clinical use, a researcher in an monitoring room controls Keepon wirelessly, dictating that interactions v children. While testing the gizmo in day-care centers, Kozima found that autistic children made an ext eye call with the robot 보다 they did v people. Behaviors they seldom expressed toward humans, like touching and also nurturing, became much more commonplace. Due to the fact that then dozens of study centers and also universities have actually bought the pricey bot for therapeutic work. “Using a robot can be a real ice breaker because that children and clinicians,” says Anjana N. Bhat, a researcher in ~ the university of Connecticut’s Neag institution of Education, who is conducting clinical trials v robots and also autistic children.

The research caught the fist of Dr. Marek Michalowski, a Polish-American robotics experienced with a lift in computer science and psychology. Michalowski is fascinated by the intricacy of the gestures human beings use to communicate, and wondered if a robot like Keepon might reproduce them. “You can have a future robot the nods in ~ the suitable tempo when you order that to make a sandwich,” that says. Michalowski checked out Japan to work at Kozima’s laboratory in 2006, and also began teaching Keepon that most universal of gestures: dancing. That wrote software program so the Keepon would bob that head follow me to fast tracks and swoon throughout slow run numbers.

In early on 2007, Michalowski placed together a video of Keepon dancing to "I rotate My Camera On" through the indie rock band Spoon. The tiny yellow blob provided its every for the production, rocking ago and forth, turning, squishing, and also stretching. The video turned right into an internet sensation, through over 2.6 million theatre on YouTube. Amongst the viewers were toy equipments interested in producing a consumer version. Last year, Michalowski and Kozima made decision to team up v WOW! Stuff, a brothers gadget and also toy maker, i beg your pardon agreed come dedicate a portion of sales come autism research.

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Richard North, WOW! Stuff’s floppy haired controlling director, describes that the company scours the human being for good ideas and then has its own team of designers refine the products. In this case, refining Keepon expected writing new software to govern the bots’ interactions with people, and replacing a lot of the handmade machinery v off-the-shelf parts. For example, WOW! Stuff’s version, change the name My Keepon, provides touch and also sound sensors come detect a nearby human instead of cameras behind the eyes. “There were severe expense constraints, yet we had actually to number out ways to include variation and personality and also avoid gift a gimmick,” states North.

My Keepon has actually two modes: touch and also dance. In touch mode, the robot responds come pats v a variety of gestures, such together turning, wiggling, or sneezing. Part of the fun originates from uncovering my Keepon’s reactions. Hit the on the head six times, because that instance, and also it will certainly pop up and also down six times while create a variety of R2-D2-like beeps and boops. Yes sir a little bit of an enig to dance mode, too. A microphone in mine Keepon’s nose listens come a tune — or also a rhythm hummed or whistled — and runs the tempo and amplitude through an algorithm the introduces part randomization. Fire increase a nation hit and watch mine Keepon sashay come the beat. Play the very same song again, and also My Keepon will execute a different dance, while still corresponding the rhythm and tempo.

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It’s that emphasis on the unforeseen that Michalowski claims will different My Keepon from other toys that “lose your novelty as soon as someone has actually gone with their variety of responses.” mine Keepon have the right to remember assignment of touches and notices once it’s to be ignored. It will certainly tweak that behavior based on this history, wiggling in various ways and letting out an sometimes cry because that attention. The toy’s backers pitch My Keepon as a empty slate that can appeal come kids and adults. “You can see Keepon as pensive or sad, maybe whatever you room feeling,” Michalowski says. North, of course, is readying a heat of accessories, prefer Western outfits, to let world customize the bot to their liking.

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Toys “R” Us has actually plans to placed hi-tech marketing screens in that is stores and launch a television ad campaign. Though the final price isn’t set yet, mine Keepon will offer for less than $50. “It will have a large presence,” states Barry.

Michalowski’s big hope is that the proceeds from mine Keepon will assist cover the expenses of new therapeutic units, so added autism research deserve to be conducted. He and also North likewise plan to sell robotics hobbyists the tools to program My Keepon themselves, offering it moves undreamt of by its creators. “We intend kids and also adults come personalize not just on the outside yet on the within too,” claims North.

The bottom line: toys “R” us plans a big marketing press this autumn for my Keepon, which will offer for much less than $50 — outfits and also accessories no included.