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Siri, Eat Your Heart Out

As Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) continues to burn through millions of units of the iPhone 4S, more and more people are getting hooked on the “personal assistant” application that comes installed – Siri.

Siri leverages speech recognition technology from Nuance Communications (Nasdaq: NUAN). The application allows you to do anything from placing calls and surfing the web, to scheduling appointments and locating sushi restaurants – just by using your voice.

What sets Siri apart from other voice control software out there, though, is that Apple actually engineered the application with its own personality. So it’s almost like you’re having a conversation with a real personal assistant.

Although Siri represents a huge step forward in artificial intelligence technology, this personal assistant from Aldebaran Robotics puts Apple’s personal assistant to shame…

Forget Siri… NAO Can Sing and Dance!

The new NAO Next Gen robot is an automaton of many talents. And its creators at Aldebaran say it could be the personal assistant you’ve been waiting for. That’s because unlike Siri, it can sing, dance and even take photographs.

The robot also benefits from Nuance’s vocal-recognition program, allowing it to communicate in nine languages.

With this high-tech functionality on board, Aldebaran’s Head of Communications, Bastien Parent, says NAO is designed to be both a helper and a companion:

“It can be useful by giving people information. It can give you a weather forecast, for example. It can tell you how long it will take you to go to work. So why not have a robot you can control from your mobile phone or keep it at home while you are on holiday so you can make sure everything is okay?”

Appropriately named after the Mandarin word for brain, NAO boasts an on-board computer, enabling the robot to follow orders. It also recognizes colors and voices, and connects wirelessly to the internet.

It’s a worthy personal assistant, for sure. But potential for the robot goes beyond just fetching a cup of coffee and terrorizing your pets.

For instance, Parent says NAO could be used to help autistic children, who are said to demonstrate better verbal communication when the robot’s around.

The automatons aren’t cheap, with models costing around $16,000. Not to mention batteries will set you back another $400.

As a result, it’s been three years since its first model became commercially available, but Aldebaran says it has sold only 2,000 robots worldwide.

However, as the technology improves, the company believes it won’t be long before robots like NAO will become less expensive and more accessible to households around the world.

Now if only we can get NAO to make calls for us, too, Siri would really be in trouble.

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