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He, Robot

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Wired NextFest is kicking off today in Los Angeles, and it's where Richardson-based robot maker David Hanson, a Highland Park High School grad, will debut his offspring: Zeno. It's supposed to be the first robot that can actually expand its consciousness over time, which means that one day, yes, he will rise up to strike down his masters. But till then, it sounds fun! As in:

He has everything he needs to become your friend; he sees, hears, talks and remembers who you are. He even walks and performs amazing stunts. His face is soft like yours so he can show emotions, just like you -- happy, sad, puzzled, and lots more... Plus, if you use your computer to help Zeno connect to the internet, he can keep learning and growing smarter. He’ll even help you learn about the world around you.

Hanson, a former sculptor at The Walt Disney Co., is getting much attention for his creation these days -- no surprise, given his estimable rep in the world of robotics combined with his desire to make affordable toys that evolve (he wants to sell Zenos for between $200 and $300). "The goal is to bring it to market as a children’s toy, able to tutor, express and teach a variety of different subjects," Hanson says in today's media release. In related news, this means my 4-year-old could one day get his wish: "a robot brother." --Robert Wilonsky

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