NEC robot draws beady eye on sat-nav role

Personal approach to navigation relies on robot smarts

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You may remember NEC's PaPeRo as the little robot who could – the minuscule bundle of plastic and chips has recently been seen doing everything from blogging to telling people apart using face recognition.

Now, after a successful demonstration in Tokyo, the prototype device can add driving a car to its list of skills sure to be touted whenever NEC decides to commercialise the device.

Sat-nav replacement

Technically, a human is still needed to do all the heavy lifting – turning the wheel, operating the pedals, looking out for Asimo and Aibo running loose in the road ahead – but PaPeRo can fill in for a sat-nav system.

The demo showed the robot planning a route and giving turn-by-turn instructions after simply being told that its owner needed to drive from Tokyo to Yokohama.

That may not seem like much, but NEC reckons the robot will be able to personalise trips by using voice recognition to work out which family member is making the journey.

It could then include personal touches, such as stopping at an appropriate ATM on the way or taking a favoured road, for example. Any information gleaned from the user is stored on a home network for future reference.