KDDI R&D Laboratories and I Bee, K.K. have upgraded their Bluetooth-enabled bipedal walking robot, named Pirkus-R Type-01, with facial recognition capabilities. Equipped with a built-in CCD camera, the 29-cm (1-foot) tall personal (build-it-yourself) robot can spot faces that it would like to inspect at closer range. Pirkus-R is able to self-correct its direction as it makes its approach, and once it captures a facial image, it can determine whether or not the person is registered in its file.

Pirkus-R Type-01

I Bee was responsible for developing the robot, which can be controlled from an au Bluetooth-enabled handset (W21T/W31T/W41T) using a BREW application. As I Bee continues to develop Pirkus-Rís control and facial recognition technology and the 8-bit CPU that links the robot with the handset, the price (250,000 yen for the deluxe model) may start to come down.

The robotís facial recognition technology is based on technology that KDDI developed for mobile phones. KDDI has improved upon previous facial recognition technology, which used to require you to position your face directly in front of the camera in order to be recognized. Other problems with the human-robot interaction have been addressed, including lighting-related problems that occurred when capturing images. Pirkus-R is able to automatically detect which direction you are facing, and is no longer at the mercy of variations in lighting conditions. Furthermore, because it is equipped with Bluetooth technology, you can use your BREW-enabled au handset to check Pirkus-Rís operating status and facial recognition results. Of course, you can control it from your phone, too.

Pirkus-R Type-01 is scheduled to appear at the Robo-One fights being held this weekend (March 17 to 19) at Panasonic Center Tokyo.

(See videos here)

UPDATE 31/Mar/2006: Tempusmaster at www.robots-dreams.com has posted video of Pirkus-R in action (sort of) at Robo-One. The video suggests a need for further improvements to Pirkus-R's facial recognition capabilities. (Link)

[Sources: IT Media, Robot Labs]