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Press Release

Contact:
Eric Sloss
412-268-5765

For immediate release:
September 23, 2005

Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center's Quasi Selected as Mascot for the World's Fair for Kids

PITTSBURGH—Quasi, an animatronic robot created by a team of Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) students, has been selected as the official mascot of the World's Fair for Kids in Orlando, Fla. The fair will be April 16—23, 2006. For more information about the World's Fair for Kids, visit www.wfkids.com/portal/.

"Quasi was selected to be the official 'SpokesRobot,' mascot of the 2006 Orlando World's Fair for Kids for many reasons," said Brian Sockin, president and CEO of the World's Fair for Kids. "Quasi is a remarkable achievement in any measure and caliber and equally impressive are the students that built him. For the World's Fair, we recognized the child inside of Quasi and his ability to relate to children of all ages and foster a sense of awe and wonder of the world at large."

Quasi can make responses based on guest input and can recognize speech patterns, track faces, detect proximity, dispense candy and even perform a karaoke duet. Brenda Harger, the faculty advisor for the student Interbots Initiative team that created the robot, said Quasi "represents a well-constructed interdisciplinary approach." The Interbot Initiative team's goal is to create compelling animatronics characters that enable memorable interactions with guests.

Quasi is a child-like humanoid robot around two feet tall and has two antennae that mimic the movement of dog-ears. His expressive eyes and antennae can change color; together they allow him to convey a wide variety of emotions. A pinhole camera in his nose allows him to direct this gaze at the humans in front of him. Quasi also has a large head in proportion to his body; this cartoonish stature evokes friendly and compassionate instincts in the people who interact with him.

For the World's Fair, the team added a lower body to the Quasi's original design. "This robot's 'got legs,' both figuratively and literally. Bravo to our alliance partners at ETC," said Sockin. The team also increased the number of Quasi's motors and joints, allowing his skeleton to move at 31 different points.

Quasi can be either pre-scripted or autonomous. That is, the team can puppeteer Quasi through a computer or Quasi can function and interact on his own. Part of the team's reasoning for making Quasi capable of autonomous interactions is that Quasi is intended to be believable and entertaining as a real character that people feel comfortable interacting with.

"As such, Quasi can develop long-term relationships with people who routinely interact with him and basically act as a friend. We made a robot prototype that is engaging and entertaining," Harger said.

A team of Carnegie Mellon Master of Entertainment Technology (MET) students began working on Quasi in the spring of 2004 and now a new student team is working to support his integration into the World's Fair. The team of students comes from many interdisciplinary backgrounds, including robotics, electrical engineering, computer science, digital media, artificial intelligence, physics, psychology, theatre, industrial design and sculpture. The software used to create interactive experiences with Quasi consists of both off-the-shelf multimedia applications as well as custom-created authoring tools. Alias Maya, a 3D modeling and animation package is used to create all of Quasi's movements. The custom Behavior Authoring Tool (BAT) allows someone with little to no programming experience to create rich, complex character personalities for Quasi.

The Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University offers an interdisciplinary master's program with the College of Fine Arts (CFA) and School of Computer Science (SCS). Although students come from both fine arts and technology backgrounds, they are not expected to master both fields. Instead, the program focuses on honing the students' existing skills and teaching them to work effectively with other professional groups. Carnegie Mellon is the only university to offer the MET degree.

For more information on this or other ETC projects, visit: www.interbots.org and www.etc.cmu.edu. For more information about Quasi, contact Eric Sloss at 412-268-5765 or ecs@andrew.cmu.edu.

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