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This Robot Speaks Farsi

If Iran’s recently announced Surena 2 robot had its speech and vision modules in place, it would surely speak Farsi — Iranian Persian.  Looking somewhat like Honda’s ASIMO, Iranian state television claims the Surena 2 robot weighs 99 pounds (45 kg) and is 4.76 feet (145 cm) tall. It was developed by more than 20 robotics experts at Tehran University.

Named for a Persian warrior and introduced by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Tehran’s International Conference Center on July 3, 2010, the Surena 2 reportedly will get speech and vision modules shortly.

What is Iran up to?  Trying to piece together the specifications for the Surena 2 takes more than a little sleuthing. Iran is… well, as the Guardian reports, “Like an angry, defiant boxer who is bloodied but unbeaten.”  Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not exactly transparent when it comes to responding to the punitive sanctions of the UN, US, and EU over Iran’s growing nuclear and missile technologies. Why should the government-controlled Tehran University (TU) be any more forthcoming concerning its robotics program?  Is the West soon to face an army of Surena X warriors?

The original Surena was a humanoid robot with its overall appearance based on the human body. Here’s a Farsi video of the original Surena robot:

According to translations of this video, the original Surena walked with the help of remote control infrared radiation and spoke (Farsi, of course) in pre-programmed sentences.  It was able to move its head and hands, climb stairs, and was supposedly being programmed to hear and see objects. The original Surena robot was somewhat larger than Surena 2 at 160 cm tall and heaver at about 60 kg. 

What we can surmise about the next generation Surena 2 robot comes from the English version of TU’s web site. It was developed by a team at the UT Center for Advanced Vehicles (CAV) that includes Dr. Aghil Yusefi-Koma with the cooperation of the Ministry of Industry and Mines. Dr. Yusefi-Koma stated at a July 7, 2010 press conference that the aim of the project is to develop a robot that can be used “in sensitive and hard work conditions instead of human workers.”  “Surena has a freedom of 12 degrees in feet, 8 degrees in hands and 2 degrees in head,” according to the English translation (for a total of 22 degrees of freedom). “Among the special properties of the robot we can refer to the calm and human-like pace and systematic movements of hand and foot.”  

In contrast, the Honda ASIMO stands 130 cm (as opposed to Surena 2’s 145 cm) and weighs 54 kg (slightly heavier than Surena 2’s 45 kg).  ASIMO can run at 5 km/hr and walk at up to 2.7 km/hr (there are no comparable benchmarks for Surena 2).  ASIMO has a total of 34 degrees of freedom: 3 (head), 14 (arms), 4 (hands), 1 (hip), and 12 (legs).  ASIMO can interpret the postures and gestures of human and move independently in response. It can greet approaching people, follow them, move in the direction they indicate, and recognize their faces and address them by name. Like a human using a smart phone GPS, it navigates by accessing the Internet.

The ASIMO is designed by Honda to be “people-friendly.”  Videos show it serving people hors d’oeuvres, dancing, walking up stairs, and even conducting the Detroit Symphony:

Will Surena 2 and its descendants be similarly benign?  Stay tuned…

See Also

A Samsung Robot in Every Home by 2020

Japan’s Brain Wave Initiative: Mind Reading Bots by 2020


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