World's first Arabic speaking robot constructed in UAE

Worlds first Arabic spe

By ADAM GONN / THE MEDIA LINE
November 4, 2009 18:21
2 minute read.
Arabic speaking robot 248.88

Arabic speaking robot 248.88. (photo credit: )

Owners of robots who have felt frustrated by their humanoid companions' inability to say marhaban, ma salama, shukran and mabrook may soon be able to end their suffering. Named after a 11th Century Muslim doctor and philosopher, the world's first Arabic speaking robot has come to life in the Gulf. Ibn Sina, as the new robot is called, was designed by a team at the Interactive Robots and Media Laboratory at the United Arab Emirates University. "Ibn Sina is the first humanoid robot which actually can perform Arabic dialogue," Dr. Nikolaos Mavridis, lab director of the Interactive Robots and Media Laboratory and assistant professor of computer sciences, told The Media Line. "The reason why we choose Ibn Sina is multi-fold," Mavridis said of the robot's name. "Number one we wanted somebody who people of the region can see as one of their own people, number two we wanted someone who carries values which are important for the region such as science and philosophy… He is pretty much the equivalent of Leonardo Da Vinci for the region that we are in." Ibn Sina's writings, some of them based on the work of Galileo, were translated from Arabic to Latin and used throughout the world for some 200 years after his death. The Ibn Sina robot was custom built for an interactive theater in which scientists "play with the interactions between robots, virtual characters and different forms of tele-presence," Mavridis explained. The hope is that the robot will refocus attention on local culture and history through robotic educational workshops for children on Ibn Sina's scientific discoveries. The UAE-based lab plays host to scientists from Pakistan, Iran and Greece. The group is now working on making the robot more intelligent "by giving him more censor ability, more complicated dialog abilities and also playing with his interracial theater concept," Mavridis said. In addition to the Ibn Sina project, the Interactive Robots and Media Laboratory is also involved in a Facebots project in which robots with dialogue capabilities are created using face recognition technology and data available on the social networking site Facebook. The Facebots project has been given an award by Microsoft. The Ibn Sina robot's voice is called Nizar was designed by the French company called Acapela and toke nine years to develop. Nizar is meant to keep the conversation flowing in a natural and easy way.


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