Giant Confused Robot Politely Asks for Directions

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Just like an American tourist in Europe, this German robot is completely lost and can only understand basic gestures like emphatic pointing to help it to its destination.

Like a nerdy, non-adorable version of the Tweenbot, the ACE (Autonomous City Explorer) is designed to find its way to a specific urban location, relying on the assistance of strangers it meets along the way. But instead of asking to be manhandled into the right direction, it politely asks each pedestrian it meets if he or she would like to help it, via a touchscreen and a synchronized "mouth" and speaker.


If the pedestrian acquiesces, the ACE asks him or her to point in the direction it should be going, and using several cameras and custom software, it interprets the gesture with apparently flawless accuracy. The ACE's physical design seems sort of risky, in that running into a curb could send it flying face-first into a Munich gutter (do they have gutters in Germany? I'm inclined to think not), but it found its way to its destination a kilometer away with only one incorrect direction, so we guess the complex system of cameras and gesture-based mapping works. [New Scientist]