Keepon is a small yellow robot designed to study social development by interacting with children. Keepon was developed by Hideki Kozima while at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Kyoto, Japan. Keepon has four motors, a rubber skin, two cameras in its eyes, and a microphone in its nose.
n the context of Kozima’s “Infanoid” project, Keepon has been used to study the underlying mechanisms of social communication. Its simple appearance and behavior are intended to help children, even those with developmental disorders such as autism, to understand its attentive and emotive actions. The robot, usually under the control of a teleoperator, has interacted with children in schools and remedial centers for developmental disorders since 2003.
Keepon achieved popularity with the March 2007 YouTube release of a video in which the robot was depicted dancing to the song “I Turn My Camera On” by the band Spoon. The video was made by Marek Michalowski of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, US, after programming Keepon to dance to musical rhythms. Keepon was subsequently featured in a WIRED Magazine-produced music video for Spoon’s “Don’t You Evah.”
Keepon is currently available for purchase at $30,000, though a price drop is speculated after simpler mechanisms are developed. Furthermore, in response to Keepon’s online popularity, a toy version, called the My Keepon, was announced in January 2010 by Wow! Stuff in conjunction with BeatBots. The toy aims to “[capture] the essence of the Keepon character”, including its reactivity to touch and ability to dance to music. It became available for order in the United Kingdom and the United States in fall 2011, and began shipping in late October 2011. The makers say part of the profits from My Keepon sales “will go towards subsidizing and donating BeatBots’ research-grade robots to therapists and researchers.”