Unibo Robot Stars in Fujitsu AI Cloud Platform

Unibo can recognize users and customize conversations accordingly. Unibo can move its head and arms. It’s equipped with touch sensors, an infrared sensor, a 7-inch full HD display to show its animated face and other information, a microphone, speakers and a camera.

Would you be more willing to use a smart speaker if it had an animated face? Fujitsu is rolling out a potential competitor to Google Home and Amazon Alexa with Unibo, a chatty tabletop humanoid from Unirobot - though its price makes it more suited for the B2B market.

Fujitsu introduced what it calls its Robot AI Platform, a cloud-based network that’s aimed at connecting people and robots as well as mobile devices. The platform’s cloud services include natural language conversation, face and expression recognition and voice-emotion analysis.

The system makes use of Fujitsu Human Centric AI Zinrai, an AI platform it describes as “sensing and recognition, knowledge processing, and decision-making and support, together with learning technologies that allow these features to be enhanced and grow.”

“This platform is designed to connect people with each other,” said Katsuhiro Tanimura, senior vice president in Fujitsu’s Global Business Strategy Unit. “We aim to revitalize communities and businesses for a richer society.”

Unibo: a more humanoid version of Jibo

Unibo can recognize users and customize conversations accordingly. It’s 32 cm tall and weighs 2.5 kg. It can move its head and its arms. It’s equipped with touch sensors, an infrared sensor, a 7-inch full HD display to show its animated face and other information, a microphone, speakers and a camera.

Its list price is 158,000 yen ($1,400). It’s perhaps reminiscent of the social robot Jibo, but it has a more pronounced humanoid design, tapping into Japan’s long love affair with science fiction humanoid robots such as Astro Boy.

Fujitsu worked with a handful of Japanese firms to realize its Robot AI Platform. Aside from Unirobot, which was founded in 2014, iNAGO provided natural-language support while sMedio and Empath supplied personal authentication as well as face and emotion-recognition engines.

Applications for Unibo

Fujitsu and its partners are eyeing a range of applications for Unibo and the AI platform. Elder care and customer service are obvious possibilities given Japan’s aging population and shrinking workforce. Other functions include controlling household appliances, scheduling reminders, robot programming education and help with recipes. Fujitsu is also trialing the system at Numazu Shinkin Bank, where it’s being used to offer information on financial products and provide customer concierge services.

Fujitsu is offering the AI platform and Unibo on a one-year trial service with a price of 648,000 yen ($5,780). Along with other related solutions, such as a consulting service focused on how customers can implement cloud-based robotics, Fujitsu is aiming for 30 billion yen ($267 million) in sales by April 2020.
“I believe that this service from Fujitsu Limited will be an entry point for robots, providing an entirely new approach and contributing significantly to customers’ businesses on the ground in a variety of situations,” Taku Sakai, representative director of Unirobot, said in a release.

About the Author

Tim Hornyak · Tim Hornyak is a freelance science and technology journalist based in Tokyo. Born in Montreal, Hornyak moved to Japan in 1999 and worked for Japanese news organizations before coauthoring guidebooks to Japan and Tokyo for Lonely Planet. He is also the author of Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots. He has worked as Tokyo correspondent for IDG News, producing articles and videos for websites such as Computerworld, Macworld and Networkworld, and has contributed to media such as Scientific American, National Geographic News and MIT Technology Review.
Contact Tim Hornyak: rteditorial@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Tim Hornyak.
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