Roboticist Has Real Son Zeno, Robot Son Zeno

In science fiction writer Brian Aldiss' 1969 story Super-Toys Last All Summer Long, roboticist Henry Swinton and his wife are not allowed to have a child, due to overpopulation. So, Henry creates David, a synthetic boy named David. By the end of the story, though, Henry and his wife win the parenthood lottery, and will have a real son along with a robotic one.

Roboticist David Hanson can relate to this story. He has two little boys named Zeno in his house. An eighteen-month-old little boy and a little robotic boy.


(Zeno the robot boy)

Zeno (the robot son) is about 17 inches tall and weighs 6 pounds. Hanson and a team of roboticists at his company, Hanson Robotics, worked for five years to create Zeno. The robot boy, that is.

"It's a representation of robotics as a character animation medium, one that is intelligent," Hanson beams. "It sees you and recognizes your face. It learns your name and can build a relationship with you."

"...by coincidence they're both Zeno, and in other ways this robot has become more of a portrait sculpturally of the son, although it's almost coincidence," said Hanson, whose previous jobs include working as a character sculptor for The Walt Disney Co. "We didn't consciously sculpt this robot to look like him. It's the way things filter through the hands of the artist."

Zeno (the robot boy) confers wirelessly with the brains behind the machine - a PC running a variant of Massive Software, which enabled the graphics for the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings.


(Zeno robot boy, David Hanson, Zeno)

I met David Hanson briefly at NextFest 2005 (see NextFest 2005 - Festival Of Technovelgy to see some of its still sfnal devices), which was held in Chicago. He was introducing his Philip K. Dick robot, and seemed like a very nice, very well-grounded guy. He'd like to get the price on his robot boy down to the point where most people could afford one. A robot boy.

Via Robot Maker Builds Artificial Boy; thanks to Zac Hunter for finding this eerily-close-to-science-fictional story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/14/2007)

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