From SRK’s RaOne to Rajnikant’s ‘Chitti’, Bollywood has given us a glimpse into the future of what it would be like to meet and interact with a fully advanced robot. But, do we need for the future to arrive to meet a fully functional robot? Ask Mr Dinesh Patel, and his answer would be a loud and resounding ‘NO’. Mr Patel has developed an advanced Social Humanoid Robot right in his home.
Mr Dinesh Patel is a computer science teacher at KendriyaVidyalaya, IIT Powai in Mumbai, Yes, A teacher and not a Robotics Scientist! This young teacher has turned into an innovator to develop a fully operational Social Humanoid Robot named ‘Shalu’. Despite his humble background and limited resources, this young innovator has transformed his imagination into reality and developed the “Shalu” Robot using spare parts that are commonly available in the local market. What started as a hobby in free time, took the form of a passion project giving shape to the “First social humanoid Robot of the world that can speak 9 Indian and 38 foreign languages”.
Inspiration Behind Shalu
The inspiration behind the Robot “Shalu” came from ‘Chitti’ the advanced Robot played by Superstar Rajnikant in the move Title Robot. After watching Chitti, Dinesh asked himself if it was possible to develop a humanoid robot that can mimic human responses and emotions. His imagination got a concrete shape after seeing the Robot Sophia which was developed by Hanson Robotics, a Hong-Kong based Robotics Company. Dinesh was also inspired by Prime Minister NarendraModi’sdream mission “Digital India Mission”, “Skill India Mission” and “Make in India Mission”, and he began working on “Shalu” – India’s first social humanoid robot.
Robotics is bleeding-edge technology, which even established technology firms shy away from meddling with. So, for a humble Computer Science Teacher, to dream of building his humanoid robot surely looked like a farfetched dream. One of the prime challenges that Dinesh encounteredwas arranging the necessary spare parts and technology to bring “Shalu” to ‘life’. But, as the adage goes “Where there is a will, there is a way”, so Dinesh decided to go ahead and use locally sourced and commonly available spares parts, including motors, circuitsplastic, aluminium, cardboard, wood, etc. and other components to start building the humanoid robot.
Bringing Shalu to Life
After 3 years of dedication and hard work, Dinesh was able to build the prototype for the humanoid robot ”Shalu”.“Shalu” isa lovely soft-spoken, multi-talented, multi-lingual Robot “Shalu”. She is capable of speaking 9 Indian languages (Hindi, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Bangla, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Nepali) in addition to English along with 38 foreign languages viz. German, Japanese, etc.
What can Shalu do?
Shalu has been developed as a humanoid robot, which means that it can mimic human behaviour and has a diverse set of capabilities which enables it to respond in the same manner as a human being. She can demonstrate human behaviour and gestures viz. shaking hands, laughing, anger, and irritation. The key capabilities of the Humanoid Robot “Shalu” include Facial Recognition using which “Shalu” can remember a person after meeting them, just like a normal human being. On similar lines, she can also identify common objects such as a computer, laptop, TV, mobile, bottle, book, bus, watches, chair, etc. Dinesh has also programmed a set of smart capabilities in “Shalu” making her an ideal companion. “Shalu” can read news from newspapers, read horoscopes based on an individual’s date of birth, and also predict or forecast weather for the next 10 days for any location! She can also tell jokes to keep people entertained and also have a social casual talk on predefined contents using Artificial Intelligence by understanding the meaning of the conversation.
Shalu as a Learning Companion
Being a teacher, Dinesh has imbibed several qualities of a teacher in the Robot “Shalu”, making her an ideal Learning companion for students. She is capable of understanding simple math questions as well as equations and answers such as Time-Speed-Distance, Simple/Compound Interest, equation calculation, LCM/GCF, Factors, Prime numbers, Armstrong numbers, etc.“Shalu” is also capable of giving lectures and presentations in the classroom or seminars and is capable of answering educational questions based on Physics, Chemistry, Maths, History, Geography, GK, etc. which usually students ask while studying in the classroom.
The Way Ahead…
On asking what plans he has for Shalu’s future, Dinesh says that he is just getting started and plans on adding more capabilities and functionalities to the humanoid robot soon. As far as future plans are concerned, to help “Shalu” exhibit human emotions better, he plans on using 3D print body parts for smooth movement of different body parts with better quality motors. He will also use real latex human face mask to express their emotions with facial expression while also improving on the social conversation skills and capability to answer educational queries in many languages perfectly.