Washington, February 19 : The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York is all set to exhibit a half computer, half robot called 'Wizkid' that behaves talks to the user just like a little child.
Created by Swiss researchers, 'Wizkid' will be part of the museum's Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit, running from February 24 to May 12, 2008.
Its makers insist that just like any kid, their robot can amuse people, ask them lots of questions, and even bother them.
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) engineer Frederic Kaplan created WizKid in collaboration with industrial designer Martino d'Esposito, who teaches at ECAL (The University of Art and Design Lausanne). Their collaboration was supported by the new EPFL+ECAL Lab, a joint initiative of the two Lausanne-based institutions that aims to merge engineering, design and architecture in new and innovative ways.
Wizkid looks like a computer with a neck, and the screen on the mobile neck moves about like a head. It also has the ability to perfect the facial movements made by a person it sees.
Wizkid neither has a mouse nor a keyboard. On its screen, a user sees himself surrounded by a "halo" of interactive elements that he can simply select by waving his hands. As the user moves away or to one side, Wizkid adapts itself to him.
Even when the user is with a friend, Wizkid finds and tracks both of them, and tries to figure out their relationship-expressing surprise, confusion or enjoyment when it gets their response.
The researchers behind this innovation feel that it is playing a new and important role in the transitional we currently inhabit.
"Wizkid gets us AFK - away from keyboard - and back into the physical world. Unlike a personal computer, it doesn't force the human to accommodate, and it's fundamentally social and multi-user," said Kaplan.
Although Kaplan says that he is not suggesting that Wizkid will replace the language-driven interfaces of ordinary computers, he insists that that there are many areas in which Wizkid's augmented reality may ease and enhance the human experience.
Not only does Wizkid has the ability to play novel kinds of games and register information in a museum exhibit without having to touch a screen, it also pays attention to who is and who is not speaking during conferences.
At the MoMA exhibit, Wizkid will interact with visitors; ask (nonverbal) questions about relationships; and use its novel "body language" to express interest, confusion, and pleasure.
Interestingly, Wizkid might just remember and try to continue the conversation with a person who goes out of range and then comes back.