World's first Arabic-speaking robot to serve as staff in shopping malls

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London, November 4 (ANI): A laboratory in the UAE has built what it says is the world's first Arabic-speaking robot which could soon go into mass production to serve as staff in shopping malls.

According to a report in The Independent, Ibn Sina, named after the 11th century Islamic philosopher and scientist commonly known in English as Avicenna, was designed by a team at UAE University in the city of Al-Ain, which is part of Abu Dhabi emirate.

"It is the world's first Arabic-speaking conversational humanoid robot," said Nikolaos Mavridis, assistant professor of computer science at the university who led the team.

"He enables us to do research and he is also quite an educational tool because the students love to do projects on him," he added.

Mavridis, a Greek expat who has worked with a team of about 12 people, including Emiratis and international students, said that the robot could be used as a receptionist, sales staff or shopping assistants in malls.

"There is a number of things he can do on his own: answer a couple of questions, connect to the Internet to get information and show you things on the screen regarding what you want to buy," he said.

"We're very close to being able to get him to work as a receptionist or a helper in a mall. If we work on it in a group of five people, we will be able to develop those skills in six months to make him ready for full operations," he added.

Ibn Sina sports a white cloak, golden-trimmed robe, a turban and grey beard - a look Mavridis said aims to reflect the appearance of the original character, who was born near Bukhara in then Uzbekistan.

Speaking in classical Arabic, he answers questions with human-like facial expressions.

The artistic and mechanical design of Ibn Sina, including motors which allow it to make facial expressions, was carried out by Hanson Robotics, while the software was devised by Mavridis and his team.

The team worked for more than a year on developing the software system that consists of the mind of the robot, including developing his vision, speech, memory and motion.

Ibn Sina has software modules that enable it to see, detect faces and objects, as well as subsystems to conduct dialogue, transcribe speech to text, understand and talk back, Mavridis explained.

He said that the lab has already been approached by companies interested in the robot either for shopping malls or as receptionists. (ANI)

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