Cellular Squirrel, a robot that screens your calls
News by Michael Oryl (editor) on Friday July 15, 2005.
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How many times have you been in an important discussion with friends, family, or co-workers, only to have a mobile phone ring at an inopportune time and disrupt everything? While in some situations, such as at home, it might not be a daily happening, it probably is a familiar scene to people in the business world.
The question is, how do you prevent that disruption when the discussion is important and the call is not, but allow the call through when it is important and you really are just talking about last night's episode of "Survivor"?
Dr. Stefan Marti, a man that recently received his PhD from MIT, has developed what he thinks is the solution: Cellular Squirrel.
Marti worked in the Speach Interface Group, part of the famed MIT Media Labs, and developed Cellular Squirrel as part of his dissertation project.
The Squirrel itself is a Bluetooth device that uses a remote PC for its computing power, though future models would be autonomous. When a call comes in, the animatronic squirrel will "wake up" as might a character from a Disney movie. It will then start engaging the remote caller in a conversation in an effort to determine what the call is about, and if it is important enough to disrupt the conversation going on in its area.
The device makes this determination by listening to the conversation around it, trying to pick up key subject words that it can use to compare with what the inbound caller seeks to discuss. The number of the caller is also compared with an internal list of numbers belonging to "friends", and the tone of the callers voice is evaluated.
If the Cellular Squirrel determines that the caller's request is important enough, it will start to gyrate it's body in an effort to get the attention of the call recipient. The more furiously it moves, the more important it thinks the call is. At this point the user can squeeze one of its upper paws to accept the call and access it via a Bluetooth speakerphone function, or squeeze a lower paw to send the call to voicemail, just as the squirrel itself would do if it felt the call was unimportant.
While the project is far from complete, it might still hint at what kind of devices we'll see in the future. In any case, the videos are interesting to watch. You'll find them and more information on the Cellular Squirrel website.