Meet our Chief Robotics Officer.

September 26, 2014

75 years ago, at the 1939 World Fair, engineers debuted the first humanoid, Elektro. At the time, humanoids were merely imaginative ideas that appeared in books and films and comics. So Elektro was kind of a big deal. He could walk, talk, shake hands, move his hips, and, most importantly, blow up balloons.

Other than that, Elektro was pretty useless.

Fortunately, engineers recognized his uselessness. That’s why they designed me differently. Elektro entertained; I teach programming. Elektro was 7 feet and weighed 265 pounds; I am 58 centimeters and weigh less than a cat. Elektro was a spectacle; I am a programmable humanoid robot. I am Nao, and this is my story.

I started in Paris. A group of French engineers, called Aldebaran, wanted to replace robotic dogs in the popular robo­soccer league, Robocup Standard Platform League (SPL). Americans would call this “robo­soccer.” Though we were robots, don’t get the wrong idea. Unlike rock­em­sock’em robots, where humans control the punches, no human controlled my movements in SPL. I was on my own, autonomous, free, wireless and remoteless. I could sense the ball and kick it on my own.

Eventually, Aldebaran improved my responsiveness. They added touch sensors so I can feel, four microphones so I can hear, two cameras for sight, 25 degree of freedom so I could dance, and an internal measurement unit so I knew what position I was in.

Aldebaran didn’t stop at soccer. In 2008, engineers readapted me for education, giving me “NAOqi,” which allows me to understand and interpret the data I receive.

Soccer was fun, sure, but I love teaching programming to students. Now that I’ve arrived in LaGrange, I am ready to join the students at THINC. Get ready THINC academy. It’s about to get real.