Then and NAO: Bringing conversational robots to homes, hotels, and hospitals

Just about three years ago, we met NAO for the first time – a robot that was capable of speaking to humans. Today, Tractica estimates that the annual shipments of consumer robots will increase from 6.6 million units in 2015 to 31.2 million units by 2020 worldwide. We have been working with Aldebaran over the last few years to advance the conversational interface for Pepper and NAO, now used in a variety of unique settings and use cases.
Machine Learning, Neural Nets, and advanced voice technology are making the robots for homes, banks, hotels, and more, even smarter

Just about three years ago, we met NAO for the first time – a robot that was capable of speaking to humans. Its movements and abilities were truly stunning – robots for mankind had arrived.

Now it’s 2016, which promises to be a big year for consumer robots. Robots are quickly moving beyond a nascent technology to one that is quickly emerging across key vertical markets. With the ability to hear, listen, understand and respond, robots can often lend an additional perspective and perform as intelligent assistants in a variety of fields.

According to a research study by Tractica, annual shipments of consumer robots, will increase from 6.6 million units in 2015 to 31.2 million units by 2020 worldwide. Currently, the consumer robot category includes familiar products like robotic vacuums, lawn mowers, and pool cleaners. As social robots enter the market they are poised to be an industry game changer.

Social robots are already being seen as one of the hottest trends in the consumer technology space this year. Exhibits at this year’s Consumer Electronic Show were a good indicator of their growing popularity with The Robotics Marketplace experiencing a 71% growth in exhibit space.

Further, the innovation pipeline around social and home robots is thriving. For instance, students at the University of Koblenz in Germany built the Lisa robot as part of the HOMER project, students in Hefei demonstrated how two robots (“Purple Lisa” and “Blue Lisa”) can collaborate in solving typical household tasks, like serving meals or bringing out trash. And they do it by talking to each other, using human language.

Aldebaran has continued to advance the possibilities for humanoid robotics.  And now with three generations of robots, Aldebaran and its partners are working together to build applications for both personal companionship and business solutions.

The expansion of humanoid robotics for business solutions drives new requirements for the user interface. More specifically, the conversational user interface is typically built for an assistant robot that can be used in a retail space such as a bank. These conversational robots will vary from those developed to assistant in a hotel, and certainly differs from the needs for healthcare.



Humanoid robots are being built to mimic human elements of conversation and language understanding. Since interactions with humans must be as natural as possible, both verbal and non-verbal, humanoid robots need to be able to understand the many unique elements of the human language – context, meaning, industry jargon and vocabularies, and similarly the ability to respond in ways that are meaningful.

Nuance and Aldebaran have been working together over the last few years to advance that conversational interface for Pepper and NAO, with voice capabilities across many different languages. As these unique use cases become less of an exception, Aldebaran’s robots will embody the capabilities that allow them to become even more intelligent.

Unique applications of neural networks and machine learning as part of cognitive computing for language understanding are giving robots the ability to quickly learn and adapt. The robot’s ability to learn words, phrases and information will expand over time. More importantly, the robot’s contextual capabilities will expand with the ability to leverage previous experiences and user preferences to offer information and make decisions.

If you thought the Roomba was an amazing invention, you may be adding humanoid robot to your tech wish list. While the idea of talking to robots at your local bank seems far-fetched, it’s a reality we won’t even think twice about in the near future.

To learn more about Aldebaran’s innovation in robotics, visit


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Vignesh Jayanth

About Vignesh Jayanth

Vignesh Jayanth serves as a Senior Manager of Product Management in Nuance’s Mobile Division. Vignesh is responsible for leading teams in advancing Nuance’s product portfolio in the Internet of Things Vertical. Prior to Nuance, Vignesh held leadership roles in Product Management at Bose Corporation where he has commercialized several emerging technologies. He received his M.B.A from the Kellogg School of Management and his M.S in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University.