21

I just attended a local technical conference and there was a robot roaming the building, talking to people. His name was Sprockit, and he was talking with people. He saw a guy and said "Hey dude, good to see you again" and the guy replied in a manner that implied that they had already talked. At one point Sprockit said "you're pulling my leg," the guy replied "you don't have legs" (he was on wheels), and he replied "well, you're pulling my leg anyway." I also talked with him, asked to shake hands (which we did), discussed seeing things at the conference, and I said something about him having good AI software, which he agreed with. His responses were quick and sounded natural, he was responding to sound and movement, and able to carry one a conversation in a crowd with a lot of ambient noise.

Sprockit the robot
Image courtesy of the Sprockit facebook page

My co-workers have all been asking where the person behind the curtain was. He certainly seemed too good to be an AI, but if he was controlled remotely, they had good microphones and cameras to pick up conversations with the crowd. Does anyone know if he is a real AI or not?

EDIT: I was looking for technical information, perferably from someone who had worked with it. Thus, it was originally asked in the Programmer's forum. Apparently some there thought that a guessed answer was what I was looking for. Even if there is no AI, it is still impressive software and hardware, because there has to be a fast wireless communication with the controller, stereo sound, cameras, and controllers.

migrated from programmers.stackexchange.com May 5 '11 at 23:07

This question came from our site for professionals, academics, and students working within the systems development life cycle.

  • Well, AI is programming, and if he really is AI, then it's very impressing and advanced programming. I didn't realize we were that far along, and my co-workers are sure that we are not. I was wondering if someone actually KNEW the answer. – thursdaysgeek May 5 '11 at 22:38
  • Searching the internet turns up videos of him, but I'm not finding much information on how he works. – thursdaysgeek May 5 '11 at 22:39
  • 1
    It's not a real AI. It's obviously a person remote controlling it. The voice is that of a human through a pitch shifter and a ring modulator, not a speech synthesizer. That person could be pretty much anywhere as it's done via radio. – Lennart Regebro May 6 '11 at 8:10
  • 1
    Radio is light-speed so it's fast. :-) Since someone has to deliver and pick up the robot I assume they hang around to do the remote controlling too, yes. – Lennart Regebro May 7 '11 at 7:20
  • 2
    Don't get bent out of shape that you don't have inside technical answers. If you are specifically trying to reach someone who has worked on a given project, StackExchange isn't the right place for your question. Try email. – Nicole May 7 '11 at 7:42
16

There are only two things I can find out definitively:

Other information:

Observations:

  • The purpose is very clearly "entertainment".
  • Watching the videos, you see that the voice is very human-like and the behavior is somewhat comical.
  • As an event novelty gimmick, the investment needed to develop such an "advanced" AI would be unlikely to pay off.
  • In the forums it is used in (kids' science fairs, parties, business conferences), even a real AI would likely be less impressive to that audience than a Mechanical Turk.
5

If you have ever been to Disney World you might have met Push the Talking Trash Can:

enter image description here

The technology sounds very similar.

Push is controlled by a man in plain clothes, who keeps a small microphone in his hand and keeps his hands inside a bag with the transmitter and a joystick.

There is a picture here of the operator (black cap, white t-shirt, large black bag).

If you are observant, you could probably find a similar person near Sprockit.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .