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Hanover tech fair - ‘Telepresence’ robot, eye-controlled laptop
Many visitors walking around CeBIT, the world’s biggest high-tech fair, have found themselves bumping into “Jazz”, a “telepresence” robot also ambling around the vast expo.
Created by French firm Gostai, “Jazz” is a shiny white humanoid robot that its makers believe could transform business meetings and reduce the need for long-distance travel.
Controllable by anyone with access to the Internet via a laptop or even smartphone, “Jazz” projects its user’s presence, showing his or her face on its own “face” and speaking in its user’s voice.
Launched only two months ago, “Jazz” could easily deputise for a manager in a business meeting, or tour a factory or shop floor, both recording and beaming back what it sees to its user, said Gostai employee Segolene Roche.
“The main advantage over teleconferencing is its mobility,” she told AFP.
It can run for five straight hours – at around four kilometres (2.5 miles) per hour – without needing to be recharged and returns to its charging station when it runs out of juice.
A sleeker, slightly more sinister, black version is also available to serve as a robot security guard.
This robot, quiet and faceless, can be programmed to prowl around a factory or warehouse and alert the authorities if it detects people up to no good.
“Jazz”, which is making its debut at an international tech fair, is yours for 7,900 euros [10,900 dollars]. Its beefier security counterpart will set you back 1,000 euros more.
Another wow billed as a global first, a laptop allowing users to open files, play music and view pictures using just the power of their eyes was turning heads at the CeBIT.
The otherwise unremarkable laptop integrates cutting-edge “eye tracking” technology by Swedish firm Tobii that follows the movement of the user’s eyes and allows him or her to operate menus and select icons.
The prototype is also good for the environment as it recognises when you are not looking at it and automatically goes into screen saver mode, saving energy, Tobii says. It restarts as soon as the user glances at the monitor again.
“It’s definitely going to be in the laptops of the future,” said Anders Olsson from Tobii. “You can do pretty much anything you would do with your normal laptop.
“We’ve been stuck for a quarter of a century with a keyboard and a mouse. It’s time to move to the next step and eye control technology is the perfect solution.”
The technology is already used in other areas, including in car safety where a sensor tracks eye movement to determine whether the driver is drowsy, and in helping paralysed people operate everyday objects just with their eyes.
However, this is the first time it has been applied to a laptop.
The prototype has only just been developed, said Olsson, adding that if the technology gets taken up by IT firms, it could be in the shops in the very near future.
More than 4,200 exhibitors are showcasing their latest wares at the CeBIT, which is expected to attract some 350,000 people before it shuts up shop on March 5.
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