Given all the fuss over the launch of Pepper - the emotional robot - we almost missed the fact that there was a new NAO - NAO Evolution.
Aldebaran has moved up a gear since being taken over by the SoftBank Group and has not only produced a completely new robot, but revamped everyone's favourite NAO.
You could summarize the new model as faster, stronger, better, but that would be to miss the software angle. The new NAOqi 2.0 operating system is common to Aldebaran's humanoid robots - the new Pepper, NAO and the larger Romeo.
The new OS comes with a dialog engine, an emotion engine and motor control. In theory, you can write an app for one of the robots and run it on any of them.
The system sensor improvements are:
Improved shape and facial detection and recognition using new algorithms
Improved sound source location using 4 directional microphones
Refined obstacle detection and distance estimation with a detection range from 1 cm (0.39 inches) to 3 m (9.8 feet) using new sonar telemeters
The basic hardware is also improved:
Stronger, with metal gears in the neck, hips, legs, and ankles
Quieter, with soles that dampen the noise and friction of its footsteps
More skillful, grasping objects more easily using finger grips
More powerful battery: 48.6 watt-hours, giving about 1 h 30 min of battery life in operational mode, i.e. 30% more than the previous generation
The fifth generation of NAO goes on sale soon but there is no indication of pricing.
Aldebaran has also shared the fact that there are around 5000 NAOs of all types in current use.