Saturday, August 21, 2010

Meet Nao, the first ‘emotional’ robot

If you thought Japan was leading the way in robot technology then check this out.

Scientists from University of Hertfordshire along with other European researchers from France, Switzerland, Greece and Denmark have created Nao, a robot that is capable of showing ‘feelings’. The robot’s emotions have been designed to emulate those of a one year old child.

“We’re modelling the first years of life” said Lola Cañamero, a computer scientist at the University of Hertfordshire who led the project to create Nao’s emotions.

“We are working on non-verbal cues and the emotions are revealed through physical postures, gestures and movements of the body rather than facial or verbal expression.”

Nao can show emotions like sadness and fear, and even joy and pride. Nao can also be programmed to have different personalities.

Of course Nao isn’t actually ‘feeling’ emotions in the way that a human can but the scientists have moved a huge step forward in bringing humans and robots closer together.

Nao is capable of forming attachments to those who care for him and treat him well and the bond will become stronger as the robot starts to understand the moods of those he interacts with on a regular basis.

If Nao is ‘feeling’ sad he will look down and hunch his shoulders forward. If he’s happy he will raise his arms for a hug. If he’s scared he’ll cower until he’s comforted.

Nao is able to use video cameras to detect a person’s proximity and work out where they are looking so he can follow their gaze. He also has sensors to detect touch. The onboard computer technology means that Nao will remember your face and any interactions between you.

Nao will show a particular emotion depending on the environment he is in and whether he is treated kindly or not. Cool!

He will know if you are smiling and will enjoy a cuddle or a pat on the head and will remember if he likes you or not.

The robot was created as part of a project called Feelix Growing and was funded by the European commission.

In future it is expected that these kinds of robots might have a place as companions or working in hospitals or homes for the elderly as well as carrying out other roles.

It all sounds amazing just now but I just hope Nao and his future offspring don’t start learning negative human traits like anger and revenge or we’re all going to be in trouble.

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