“MARIA was conceived in Chennai, when we were on an internship project in WABCO, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial vehicle arranged by our institution, The Neotia University” - recalls Sampreet. It was during World Cup 2018, when Sampreet and his peers Syed Intekhab Alam and Varun Rabindran came back to the mess from a hectic day. We were watching the World Cup and simultaneously exploring the possibilities of developing a robotic assistance of our own and that is how the idea of MARIA evolved.
Connecting MARIA with the Bigger Picture
We continued exploring the possibilities of developing a robot till 11pm at night. The more we discussed the more our enthusiasm grew to take this thought further. Looking back Sampreet adds –“ So we had a big picture plan that needed to be broken down into molecular level, designed independently and then integrated to develop the our original concept. This modular designing approach, we believed, would fit perfectly with our plan of creating MARIA.” At this point, we could not contain our enthusiasm any further and decided to call up our Head of the Department, our mentor Dr. Ankush Ghosh for guidance. Later, he is the one who shared our vision with The Neotia University Governing Body and the Academic Council to solicit all kinds of support required for turning this vision into reality.
It was a proud moment for Dr. Ghosh to see his students’ passion and dedication for the project. But before we plunged headlong into the project, Dr. Ghosh suggested us to ask one pertinent question: what kind of robots will be required in future? Since, service industry growth and concern for security are on the rise, creating robots catering to these fields made sense to us.
How she got the name MARIA?
Since inception, we wanted a robot that will be versatile, interactive and responsive. We derived her name, MARIA as an acronym from the competencies we wanted her to possess: Multiple Applications Robotic Intelligent Assistant. As soon as the humanoid sketch was outlined, the next step was to design the real prototype of the model. We were still serving as interns at WABCO and did not want the project to get delayed. As advised by our mentor, we collaborated with our juniors Saurav Das and Soumyadeep Bhadra and debriefed them about Maria, so that they could begin with the fabrication, development, fine-tuning and testing of the prototype. They were chosen for project MARIA because of their passion, dedication and innovative minds.
The process of making MARIA human
“We no longer call MARIA, our project. Maria is human to us and like our child”-says Sampreet. MARIA is allowed to interact with the environment and develop her independent intelligence and response like a human child. She is endowed with the attributes of face recognition, movement within a predefined area, greeting those whom she recognizes, coordinating with assigned people via mail inputs. Our aim is to develop MARIA in to service cum security robot, a humanoid that can assist humans in performing intelligent functions. MARIA is learning steadily and well on her way to become an efficient and intelligent humanoid that will go places.