11/04/2009, 00.00
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Eau, the first interactive robot in Arabic is born

The project created by a team of students and researchers at the University of Al-Ain cost 200 thousand dollars. The robot wears traditional clothes, speak classical Arabic and is used as an assistant to customers in shopping centres. The field of information technology will grow by 12.4% between 2008 and 2013.

Al-Ain (AsiaNews / Agencies) - This is the first example of robots who speaks perfect Arabic, and soon will be mass-produced for use as "personal" in shopping centres. Ibn Sina - this is the name chosen - was designed and built by a group of students and researchers at the University of United Arab Emirates Al-Ain, who call it "the first socially interactive robot in the Arabic world."

 Ibn Sina - or Avicenna - derives its name from the eleventh-century Muslim philosopher, it wears traditional Islamic clothes (see photo) and is able to speak fluent classical Arabic. Within six months the development project should be completed and it will be used in shopping malls as a receptionist, sales person and to help customers.    

Nikolaos Mavridis, an immigrant of Greek origin and coordinator of university research centres, emphasizes "the enthusiasm shown by students" in the development of the project. "[The robot] can do different things for himself - said the teacher - including answering questions, connect to the internet to gather information and display items the client is interested in."  

The robot has already been "tested" for a whole day in a shopping centre in Al-Ain, and within six months should be ready for commercialization. "We are very close to making it fit for work - concluded Nikolaos Mavridis - and there are several buyers interested in the project."

The project that led to the emergence of "Avicenna" was funded by the country's political leadership, scientific and technological research could form an alternative to an economy based primarily on oil and construction related to tourism.  

The investment for the construction of the robot is about 200 U.S. dollars, but in the future, funding could grow substantially. According to the Information Data Corporation (IDC), a firm that studies the global market, investment in information technology in the UAE is expected to grow by 12.4% between 2008 and 2013, for a total volume of 1.83 billion dollars.

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