At the 2008 Toy Fair in New York City, Erector featured the build-it-yourself automatons Spykee Miss and Spykee Vox. Both robots have voice controls and move on spoken command. They’re also universal remote controls and will switch on the television when ordered. As a strange and sadistic bonus, you can also jam your iPod into the robot’s crotch, activate it by voice, and make the robot dance to Hannah Montana (or whatever music you choose).
What’s really nice is the robots conform wonderfully to preset gender roles. For instance, the Spykee Miss loves girl-chat and giving advice when asked. She’s also hormonal and alternates between being sweet and nasty. Spykee Vox, the presumptive boy robot, drives around making "bomb noises." First they serve you; then they try to destroy you. Miss and Vox will be released in November, setting you back $149 each.
When not providing a way for us to communicate with our robot slaves, speech technology also gives a voice to those who otherwise wouldn’t have one, either due to injury or neurological disorders. Ambient recently demonstrated the Audeo, a collar that reads the neurological activity the brain sends to the vocal cords just prior to talking. The collar digitizes that information, sends it to a computer, and processes it into synthesized speech. The Audeo can also be modified to control a wheelchair without physically moving.
No word yet on when the technology will be ready for release, but recent months have shown great advances in what the Audeo can interpret—initially, it was limited to yes or no responses. But as evidenced in the demo video, there’s still a five- to 15-second delay between when a question is asked and when the Audeo answers. This might be frustrating if the user is at an auction.
Individuals interested in trying the Audeo can apply on the company Web site at www.theaudeo.com.
Companies and Suppliers Mentioned