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Quasi the Intelligent Robot 104

Posted by kdawson
from the but-does-it-vacuum-floors? dept.
Jake David writes to tell us about a uniquely emotive robot — named Quasi — developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Quasi appears capable of holding intelligent conversations. Here is a a video of the robot in action. Note that the animatronic figure is little more than the emotive organ of the robot, whose entirety encompasses the display booth as well. From the CMU page: "Quasi has a number of features in addition to his eyelids for conveying emotion, the most prominent of which are Color Kinetics LED lighting fixtures for his eyes and antennae. These combine red, green, and blue LEDs... His antennae can move both forward and backward as well as in and out, giving them an expressive quality not unlike that of a dog's ears."
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Quasi the Intelligent Robot

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  • by OpenSourced (323149) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @12:32PM (#16266943) Journal
    Quasi appears capable of holding intelligent conversations

    Well, then this Quasi is far ahead of most people I know.

  • by Alb_Be (972418) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @12:35PM (#16266965)
    There's someone sitting under that table with a microphone!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Svippy (876087)
      Someone posted the exact same thing on YouTube. But seriously though, if you listen a bit carefully, you will notice that some of the words appear alike in different sentences. Also, I think it is likely that some of the sentences are premade or rather each word have been inserted a number of times for different situations.

      If there really was someone under the table, then he has been seriously good at it, to do things that you usually wouldn't do. For instance, during small pauses in conversations, the
      • Obviously they man under the table is none other than Dustin "Rain Man" Hoffman.
      • by Ucklak (755284)
        I used to build/repair robots in the late 80s. These were show robots that whould appear autonomous. You'd see them in the mall or other public arenas.
        There would be one guy with a remote and another guy doing the voice. We usually hired voice talent which were C or D list local comedians but did lots of voice overs for local commercials. They would hold the mike and a cigarette in one hand and basically cup their hand over their mouth to speak so it would appear that this guy would be smoking a cigaret
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        Perhaps the Turing test isn't such a good test of intelligence after all. It seems there are people who find robotic patterns in human speech. Watch the video posted above or Google for Quasi.
    • Re:I figured it out (Score:4, Informative)

      by MickDownUnder (627418) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @01:22PM (#16267403)
      No he's actually sitting at desk in front of a computer behind the wall. I think this robot [toysrus.com] is just as impressive. Hmmm slashdot editors... hint.... if u did .... google-> quasi robot You might have saved us all 10 minutes of time and not posted this crap
    • It's just a puppet (Score:4, Informative)

      by EccentricAnomaly (451326) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @07:01PM (#16270439) Homepage
      There's someone sitting under that table with a microphone!

      This other youtube video reveals that it's just a really fancy puppet.

      http://youtube.com/watch?v=3tlqvdAaQNE [youtube.com]

      C'mon did you really think that video was real... if it were, it could pass the Turing test.
      • Puppet Quote (Score:3, Informative)

        by JonTurner (178845)
        Precisely. From the video (http://youtube.com/watch?v=3tlqvdAaQNE):
        "What we ended up doing was creating a guided performance interface that allows an ACTOR to, essentially, puppeteer Quasi, live. And if the actor talks, his voice is pitch-shifted and changed in real time and comes out of Quasi sounding like a 12-year-old robot voice." (timemark @ 3:13)

        IOW, nothing to see here. Move along.
  • I want one (Score:4, Funny)

    by ianbnet (214952) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @12:40PM (#16267039)
    I wish I had a color-changing emotive organ! :)
  • by zyzzx0 (935520) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @12:48PM (#16267107)
    Watch the discovery channel special on Quasi here at youtube, here [youtube.com]. They only designed the table, the robotics. There's no voice recognition other than the person w/ the headphones behind the robot.
    • by MickDownUnder (627418) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @01:04PM (#16267249)
      Lord.... they really should occasionally pull stories like this off the main page when it turns out they've made a horrendous error in the news worthiness of the story. This is not news for nerds or stuff that matters. What a waste of my time.... Rate parent up and save others from expending any time looking into this crap.
      • by slidersv (972720)
        My thoughts eactly. I want my 20 minutes back!

        A guy with a microphone...
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Plutonite (999141)
        What are you saying??!! He has Color Kinetics LED lighting fixtures for his eyes and antennae. These combine red, green, and blue LEDs. That has to be newsworthy!

        • by clackerd (797052)
          not to mention it was developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.
        • I'm amazed. I thought that all the blue LEDs had been purchased by Sony.
        • In other news, HP announces it had nothing to do with phony robot. Robot claims 5th Amendment. Slashdot denies dupe post having to do with pink robotic ponies. OMG. Ponies.
      • by gerald626 (197224)
        Pay NO attention to the man behind the curtain!
    • I wish I had mod points... you're absolutely right.
    • I was about to say something about that.

      It's worth noting that Quasi does serve a purpose, it's just not the one that the headline would make you think it is. Quasi was developed by the Entertainment Technologies Center at CMU. To the best of my knowledge, from reading their promotional material, they're interested in making things like Quasi, that are entertaining, not in solving problems regarding language acquisition, and developing human-competitive artificial intelligence.

      That's not to say that none
      • Still not very newsworthy. At Disney's EPCOT, you have "Turtle Talk With Crush, which is far more impressive as an example of real-time electronic puppetry. In Crush's case, we're not talking about a mechanical robot, but a big super-high-def video screen with a real-time rendered Crush interacting with kids. A Robot with a moving jaw, colored LEDs and antennas that move up & down doesn't really bring anything new to the table that hasn't already been done 20 years ago at Chuck-E-Cheese.

        BbT
    • Puppet strings. Same size as Verne Troyer. Lame.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tlqvdAaQNE [youtube.com] this video at the end shows that the quasi robot is actually just a puppet and a voice changer.
  • by m_hemaly (886170) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @12:51PM (#16267145)
    FTA:
    One additional device, an auto-talk board, does not respond to a DMX command. Rather, it is fed a pre-recorded or live line level audio signal and it moves a servo (mounted on Quasi's jaw) in proportion to the signal's amplitude. The net effect is that Quasi appears to speak in time with the audio, without having to invest any time in pre-animating mouth movements.
    I think this means that a human was talking to this auto-talk board behind the scenes. The whole innovation seems focused on the various methods used to convey emotions, which I think are pretty cool and think outside the box of mimicking facial expressions, not on any aspect of AI or intelligent conversations.
  • A machine came knocking at my door Lost & alone; hungry for oil. I could see he wouldn't get too far Shape of a man; soul of a car. Soon we'll all be dead. It makes me feel so comfortable. What I see & what I think I hear Clouds in my eye; rust in my ear. A machine will never have to feel. I know it's fake but pretend that it's real. Soon we'll all be dead. It makes me feel so comfortable. Quasi the band [wikipedia.org]. Neat Coincidence.
  • by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @01:00PM (#16267221) Homepage
    As a robot, he's way too upbeat and energetic. He should be cynical and depressing like Marvin.
  • I went to Nextfest, the robot is *not* holding an intelligent conversation, it's a complicated emoticon for someone with a voice changer, that works very well and is quite nicely built.
  • Headline : "Quasi the Intelligent Robot

    WRONG! It is an animatronic figure, and nothing more.

    Quasi appears capable of holding intelligent conversations.

    WRONG! Its a human inside.

    Poor editorial.
  • Not a sexbot. Lame.
  • A cute-looking, remotely controlled puppet, but still a puppet. What's so special about it?
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @01:17PM (#16267361)

    Quasi has a number of features in addition to his eyelids for conveying emotion, the most prominent of which are Color Kinetics LED lighting fixtures for his eyes and antennae.

    Color Kinetics being the company founded by a kid from MIT, whose sole purpose was to patent the technique of using Red, green, and blue lights to produce varying colors [colorkinetics.com] (page three of that PDF is particularly amusing.) They've patented lots of other things, like changing color patterns. The various lighting fixtures they sell cost upwards of $1,000 or more- for a simple PIC controller and a few dozen high-brightness LEDs.

    They've had their lawyers chasing down companies making LED color-changing/programmable devices for violating their "intellectual property" [colorkinetics.com] for several years now. If you want an example of all that is wrong with the US Patent system, look no further than Color Kinetics.

  • by quakeroatz (242632) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @01:22PM (#16267405) Journal
    "Quasi appears capable of holding intelligent conversations."

    I sure hope so, as Quasi's voice is a HUMAN speaking into a mic behind the kiosk!!!!

    Video here [youtube.com]

    Apparently Slashdot editors, themselves being unable to intelligently filter articles, have found it difficult to differentiate between robots and humans.

    Perhaps the first signs of Skynet [wikipedia.org] taking over is not the rise of android intelligence, but the deterioration of human intelligence! We are all doomed!
  • If you check this documentary [youtube.com] out, you'll see there's a guy behind the scenes who controls it all (3 min 13 onwards). His voice is converted on the fly, and he can control body movements and where it looks with a stylus.

    The technology they have is still pretty cool - you have to admit that robot has character (more than most people).

    If only he *were* real, it'd be a fine day for for voice recognition / synthesis and AI...
  • by Morgaine (4316) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @01:29PM (#16267451)
    From the two videos on YouTube (especially the second one which explained what the team was doing), I have to say that this was an extremely interesting experiment, but not in robotics --- in human psychology.

    The reaction of people to Quasi was quite amazing, and not limited to kids. I found myself reacting to Quasi as an entity too, despite knowing that this was merely an interface manipulated by humans.

    This is probably a good indicator of how humans will react to real AI-based robots once they eventually appear, if they too offer such a highly human-like facade. I think it goes well beyond mere "suspension of disbelief" --- we seem to WANT to accept humanity in objects. Very intriguing.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      From the two videos on YouTube (especially the second one which explained what the team was doing), I have to say that this was an extremely interesting experiment, but not in robotics --- in human psychology. The reaction of people to Quasi was quite amazing, and not limited to kids. I found myself reacting to Quasi as an entity too, despite knowing that this was merely an interface manipulated by humans.

      Yea wow the reaction is very amazing indeed! Given people thought he IS an intelligent robot.

      It's a ver
  • What CMU is selling (and yes, they're operating a business) is like those remote-controlled "entertainment robots" of the 1980s. There's apparently someone in the background running the thing. Big deal.

    Now here's a useful entertainment robot - the MotoMan RoboBar [motoman.com] This is a two-armed industrial robot bartender. For real.

    The MotoMan RoboBar is from the leading robotics company from Japan, Yaskawa Electric. Over 120,000 robots installed. Their slogan is intimidating: "We already make your car. Let us

    • by e1618978 (598967)
      youtube has a video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XQ7H11YTm8

      Seems pretty cool, except I don't like the plastic cups. Also, lining up for the touch screen (instead of bellying up to the bar) would work in Japan but not in the USA.
    • by Hahnsoo (976162)
      Now here's a useful entertainment robot - the MotoMan RoboBar This is a two-armed industrial robot bartender. For real.

      The MotoMan RoboBar is from the leading robotics company from Japan, Yaskawa Electric. Over 120,000 robots installed. Their slogan is intimidating: "We already make your car. Let us make your drink". While CMU is making toys, Yaskawa is automating the world.


      Wait, wait... so if you combine Quasi with MotoMan, do you get a Quasimodo Man of your own? It would be an ugly design, to be sure
  • maybe it wont make all the dupe stories, and get some posted on time, instead of 2 years after it was first posted elsewhere.
  • First of all, let me say that this is an impressive robot, and created a compelling illusions of high level intelligence. Now I say 'illusion' because the techniques employed to make the robot appear intelligent were no doubt just clever applications of simple pattern matching technology (I will explain shortly). What I found most impressive (probably not what most people will) was the ability of Quasi to pick out words spoken to him amidst all that background noise.

    On the design of the robot itself, I like
    • by jfbriere (785550)
      All about what you wrote is fine except for one little insignifiant detail: Quasi is not at all what you've described.
      Quasi is only a puppet controlled by a guy.
      Have a look at this documentary [youtube.com].

      Regards
    • by Belz (1000606)
      Sorry to cut your long post short: This Slashdot post is a fraud. Quasi doesn't have any AI, there's a guy behind the kiosk that speaks *every* single thing that Quasi says. It's not pre-recorded. It's a life human performer behind him. Quasi is not a robot, he's an electronic pupet.
    • by dave420 (699308)
      It's being controlled by a guy. Without sounding rude, are you really that gullible? :)
  • Now we don't need to outsource jobs for cheap labor anymore! Robots can do it here for free.
  • This is what you want:
    http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/ibi/ [cmu.edu]
    http://www.interbots.com/ [interbots.com]

    Short answers: They're not "researchers", but Entertainment Technology grad students designing an interactive experience. Quasi has an operator behind a curtain somewhere offscreen, using his microphone and camera to hear and see the audience, and controlling Quasi's responses with a voice-modulating microphone and custom software to handle emotive state and movement. Quasi is a very impressive feat of robotics, audience inte
  • Okay granted it was a little silly to title this thing "the Intelligent Robot", but there is something interesting to take from the project. Check out the Discovery Channel clip on YouTube (posted above somewhere) if you haven't already. Now notice how quickly the kids buy into the idea that they're talking to a robot. This makes me wonder: if a truly autonomous, human-like, interactive robot were created tomorrow, would society accept it to the point where one winds up in every home (I dunno, doing the
    • by joto (134244)

      This makes me wonder: if a truly autonomous, human-like, interactive robot were created tomorrow, would society accept it to the point where one winds up in every home (I dunno, doing the laundry or something) or would we reject it as just too creepy?

      Given that quasi was designed as a cartoon/toddler, not as a grown-up slave, I'd say it would be us doing quasis laundry. This seems to be what we want anyway, someone to care for. Remember the tamagotchi-craze? Even with real-life animals, people want pets!

  • Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
  • Some AI involved? (Score:2, Informative)

    by floorgoblin (869743)
    Article from Carnegie Mellon Today: http://www.carnegiemellontoday.com/article.asp?Aid =265 [carnegiemellontoday.com] Quasi doesn't have to be controlled by a person: "Quasi can be either pre-scripted or autonomous. That is, the team can puppeteer Quasi through a computer or Quasi can function and interact on his own. Part of the team's reasoning for making Quasi capable of autonomous interactions is that Quasi is intended to be believable and entertaining as a real character that people feel comfortable interacting with." And it
  • There is no "robot" there; this is an electronically controlled, remotely operated puppet. And compared to traditional puppetteers, I think they didn't even do a particularly good job.

    It's an embarrassment that stuff like this goes on in the name of research at universities.
    • by ruzel (216220)
      Especially since with decent speech recognition software (like dragon speak naturally--apparently the latest verison is really good) and a decent chatbot software and a speech synthesizer it wouldn't be that hard to really create a robot that could hold coversation. It would have obvious flaws and be hard, etc. but isn't that what research money is *really* for? Hard stuff? This is a just a fancy puppet.
  • Turing test (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rigrig (922033)
    Does people believing it's hooked up to voice recognition mean the operator failed his Turing test?
  • On the showing of the video, this is more art than science.

    We do not expect children to display much sophistication in their emotional behavior or body language, we forgive children lapses in etiquette, and we do not challenge them by expecting more than rote conformance to stock conversational responses. Having Quasi speak in a child's voice (and show juvenile behavior) makes it difficult to judge how successfully it is mimicking real human responsiveness. I notice that Quasi is apt to go off in impressive
    • ...I meant, of course, a tricked-up Maelzel's chess player.
      • by GTMoogle (968547)
        If it makes you feel any better, you successfully interpreted the intent of the project *despite* being fooled.

        The repetition of phrases like "november in atlanta" made me believe they were canned responses, before I found the discovery channel video. There, the first giveaway was that the first person to talk was an animator, not an intelligent systems expert.
  • by sabernet (751826) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @04:21PM (#16269053) Homepage
    I'm not saying the robot ain't well built, cute or cleverly designed. But he's essentially a muppet. Jim Henson did this a few decades ago.

    There isn't anything ground breaking about this short of using LED lighting to make the eyes change color. If anything, Henson actually had lip movement on some of his muppets.
  • "Making Of" Video (Score:2, Informative)

    by Slaryn (986308)
    Wow, that's a very cool robot. A bit self-centered, but that's understandable. Another video on YouTube shows a bit of the making of Quasi [youtube.com] from the Discovery Channel, if anyone is interested.
  • by EEPROMS (889169)
    A more in depth video about quasi including the people behind the project.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=3tlqvdAaQNE&mode=relate d&search= [youtube.com]
  • Great, more competition.
  • http://www.theequasi.com/ [theequasi.com] mmm...Janet Weiss. :-)
  • Been to Chuck E. Cheese's on their birthday. Or for that matter, any number of similar places, where there was a stage, a worker with a microphone standing off stage, controlling the animatronic character.

    Sad, sheltered little men...
  • Quasi: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"
  • >His antennae can move both forward and backward as well as in and out,

    I can see my wife wanting one of these.
  • This is just a freaking puppet. I design real automonous robots. Some find fires and put them out. Some like to chase my dog around. Others.. well I am working on a soccerbot.

    This thing is that is posted on the net is just a puppet. Some is on the other end

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