HR Strange But True!
February 19, 2004

At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the new receptionist gives directions, answers the phone -- even gossips about her boss. She's also a robot.

"Valerie" may not be the first robot receptionist, but she appears to be the first with a personality. That's because Carnegie Mellon's computer science department worked with the university's drama department to create a socially skilled robot that engages people. The result: a receptionist who talks about her boss, her psychiatrist, and her dream of becoming a lounge star.

"We wanted to give her an underdog character, struggling to make it in a world of humans," said Kevin Snipes, 26, a graduate student in drama writing, one of four writers who came up with Valerie's fictional character. "After a while on the job, she gets testy. But she can be charming too."

According to an Associated Press account, university officials say the robot has potential commercial applications. The drama department, meanwhile, may incorporate Valerie in a musical cabaret--despite her limited tone and pitch.

"She has no idea she's awful," Snipes said.

Source: The Associated Press, via Yahoo!

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