Carnegie Mellon doctoral candidate Heather Knight is endeavoring to design a robot that can better imitate a human. She created Data, a small humanoid that may ultimately read and respond to social cues. Knight gives live performances with the Nao robot (similar to those used in RoboCup soccer) while helping to develop a touch activated sensor on his head and writing behavioral programs.
Her research goes even farther as she consulted an acting professor about gestures and learned timing from stand-up comedians. She even got a script for a bit from a Carnegie Mellon associate who was into Shakespeare.
Data, "If you prick us in our battery pack, do we not bleed our alkaline fluid?"
Knight does not want to replace people, only computers. We think she is well on the way.
Great news for roboticists who want to help save the planet. DARPA is sponsoring a massive competition with a prize of $2 million going to the winner. Beginning in October, the Robotic Challenge will be looking for autonomous emergency response robots. Entries will compete in physical challenges that involve perception, decision making, use of tools, endurance and other capabilities.
The winner must be able to drive a vehicle across dense terrain, remove debris, climb a ladder and replace a component. It can be humanoid with two arms and legs, a torso and head but non- can be entered as well. An online workshop is being held today for those who want specifics or check here for more information.
This creature belongs under that category of the Uncanny Valley, the school of thought created by Dr. Masahiro Mori in a 1970 paper in the journal Energy. His thesis claims that when we see something lifelike we tend to empathize with it and then look at it with a disquieting sense that it is not, (in this instance its lack of skin.) We then accept it for what it is.
And if the above was not enough to spook you, here's another example. This is just so wrong in so many ways.
University of Ottawa roboticist Emil Petriu and team are working on a robot that they hope will be more people-friendly. They plan to replace many of the robotic components, such as facial expressions, with more humanistic ones. The Canadian team will also try to make the hands more tactile and feel that the end result will be useful in the areas of nursing, maintenance and explosive device disposal. The video is partially in French and obviously this project still has a ways to go, but they certainly have a good start.
Fans of "Nightline" were surely almost impressed with David Hanson's Phillip, a robot that comes close to looking and sounding humanish. If you missed it, here is your chance to take a look at the segment that also features Zeno, Watson and a few other familiar bots.
Shades of Andy Kaufman! Masato Takahashi of Keio University built the Ondz Clapping Robots, hands that he hoped would actually sound like humans. Not only can they can applaud their own performance, if you put enough of them in a room, you wouldn't need an audience, The real question is if there is no one in the room when the hands are clapping, is there a sound? Hit the link for more videos, one of them downright scary.
Mask-bot just may be the next generation of robotic faces. Inspired by Disney's projecting faces onto busts in the Disneyland Haunted Mansion, Gordon Cheng and his team of the ICS at Munich has a prototype that works behind a mask to produce a 3D image that can be viewed at various angles. One can reproduce content that comes via keyboard or text to speech, in both male and female, and the hope is that they can be developed for telepresence systems or video conferences. Walt would be proud.
Boston Dynamics BigDog now has a sidekick. PETMAN is a two-legged 6 ft. tall bot that can walk, perform squats and do pushups should the need arise. Probably available next year, it has been going through tests of chemical warfare agents, maneuvers in a suit, generates heat and sweats like a human. We are just grateful that they haven't taken the next step and added an evil Terminator head to its robotic body.
Panasonic's Evolta Mini-Bot finally completed his 230k Ironman Triathalon October 30 that it began in September. It took 3 different versions of the little guy to complete the task powered by 3 rechargeable batteries. He needed 166 hours to swim 3.8km, bicycle 180.2km and run 42.2km to the finish line.
It may look like a runaway from a Puffs Tissue commercial, but it is in fact a very coordinated, humanistic Mekabot unveiled at last month's IROS 2011 event in San Francisco. There are hi-res FireWire Cameras for eyes, DSP controllers that are integrated and amazingly lifelike torso and head movements. Founders Aaron Edsinger and Jeff Weber formed Meka after developing Domo at MIT.