Japanese Robot gets Ripped-Off by Chinese Company
The two pictures above are not of the same model robot. To the left UNISROBO, a new robot by the Chinese company UNIS that debuted this year, and to the right is PaPeRo, a robot by NEC Corp which started development in 1997. I think I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that UNISROBO looks much too similar to PaPeRo for it to be a coincidence.
At first glance the major difference between the two is that UNISROBO has a LED screen in it’s chest, but that seems to be the only thing that UNISROBO has that the real McCoy doesn’t. A bit of investigation by robotics blog PlasticPals revealed that the impostor is missing quite a few features that PaPeRo has; stereoscopic CCD cameras that PaPeRo uses to see, ultrasonic sensors for obstacle detection while in motion and optimally positioned microphones for sound/voice detection (among other things). This lack of features makes the UNISROBO a lot more affordable, two models are expected to retail at $460 and $615 US, which is pretty cheap for a bot. It will be marketed as an “excellent home preschool robot” able to teach young children good manners and English.
What does PaPeRo’s creator NEC think about this? PlasticPals has contacted them and reports that “NEC says their marketing group is concerned and are considering their legal options.” I’m curious to see how this turns out. But don’t let this talk of potential lawsuits distress you, why not relax to the sweet sounds of PaPero singing at Digital Content Expo last year.