A Connecticut library has acquired two fully-automated, walking, talking robots to provide independent assistance to its patrons. The robots, set to begin their duties at the Westport, Conn., library Oct. 11, will teach computer programming skills, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The two NAO Evolution robots are manufactured by Aldebaran Robotics, a French firm. They cost almost $8,000 each and were acquired with private funds.
The robots, Vincent and Nancy, stand just shy of 2 feet tall. They walk, grasp, move around walls, talk, listen and have facial-recognition software. They speak 19 languages.
But library robots Nancy and Vincent will not be shelving books or explaining the Dewey Decimal System -- at least, not at first.
To teach programming, the robots are themselves programmable. They come with programming software, the Wall Street Journal writes, and "embedded within that software are compatible programming languages, such as Python, that can be used to expand the capabilities of the NAO bots."
Bill Derry, the library's assistant director for innovation, explained, "What we're counting on is that there is great capacity for growth that will give patrons a chance to play with something resembling artificial intelligence."
The Westport Library has been at the forefront of providing interactive technology to its patrons. It was one of the first libraries in Connecticut to acquire a 3-D printer and has a maker space.
The Wall Street Journal adds, "Aldebaran also has a large development community continuously adding new behavior apps that facilitate everything from high-five gestures to a 'wake-up' routine including yawning and stretching."
So it's possible that the library robots will someday act like librarians and learn to say, "Shhhh!"