A pan-European team of robotics researchers began a project this year that could see humanoid bots interact with groups of people in a realistic, anthropomorphic way, for the first time.
The “Humanoids with auditory and visual abilities in populated spaces” (HUMAVIPS) project has the ambitious goal of making humanoid bots just that bit more human by building algorithms that will enable bots to mimic what psychologists call the “cocktail party effect” -– the human ability to focus attention on just one person in the midst of other people, voices and background noise.
If successful, HUMAVIPS will give future humanoid bots something that existing bots don’t possess -– the simple social skills necessary to deal with small groups of people, including the basic intelligence to pick out a group of humans and determine which ones want to interact with it. It could also endow bots with the ability to infer meaning from incoming sense data, which would be a rudimentary step towards truly anthropomorphic robot intelligence.
Led by Radu Horaud, Director of Research at INRIA, the three-year project, which has attracted 2.6m euros in European Commission funding, builds on the POP project (see Wired’s December report), which provided proof-of-concept for the idea that combining auditory and visual information improves a bot’s ability to pick identify human speakers in the midst of background noise.
Read more about HUMAVIPS here.
Another recent story for Wired:
Robots of the future will be capable of learning more complex behaviours than ever before if a new, pan-European research project succeeds in its goal of developing the world’s first architecture for advanced robotic motor skills.
If successful, the four-year AMARSi (Adaptive Modular Architecture for Rich Motor Skills) project (which started this month) could see a manufacturing world filled with autonomous, intelligent humanoid worker bots that can learn new skills by interacting with their co-workers. It could also see a society with personal carer bots capable of quickly adapting to complex environments and changing human needs.
If the researchers are successful, the 7 million euro, EU-funded project will enable humanoid (and quadruped) bots to autonomously learn and develop motor skills in open-ended environments in the same way humans do — by learning from the data provided by movement and essentially rewiring their circuits to process and store the new knowledge they’ve acquired.
It’s all a far cry from the limited learning and motor skills capabilities of existing bots and it will rely on a suitably advanced range of technologies to make it happen: dynamic neural networks built on reservoir computing principles, new robotics hardware designs, and sophisticated software algorithms are all involved.
AMARSi relies on a “more-or-less unusual,” biologically inspired view of motor skills that goes beyond traditional robotic designs and is better suited to truly autonomous robots, says Project Coordinator, Jochen Steil, Director of The Cognitive Robotics and Learning Laboratory (CoR-Lab), at Bielefield University, in Germany.
Read more about the AMARSi project here.
A team of European experts is working on a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton that could enable people currently confined to wheelchairs to walk again and also help astronauts rehabilitate to Earth gravity after prolonged periods in the weightlessness of space.
The MindWalker system, which is being developed as part of a three-year, 2.5 million euro project, consists of a brain-computer interface (BCI), a virtual reality training environment and a robotic exoskeleton attached to the legs.
If perfected, MindWalker will enable people with spinal chord injuries to achieve mobility by sidestepping their spinal chord as a communications pathway to their lower limbs. And, instead of having to rely on wheelchairs or walking frames to get around, they will be supported by an exoskeleton specially designed for everyday use.
Meanwhile, astronauts returning from prolonged space trips — trips that can cause severe bone deterioration and muscle loss — could use the system on their return to Earth to speed up their readjustment to Earth gravity.
If successful, the EU-funded project will bring several advances in different areas of BCI and exoskeleton design.
Read more about MindWalker here.
Not strictly a bot, but this IronMan “robot costume” is pretty high-tech, as Halloween costumes go.
And at $3,200 and with specs like these, it’s clearly one for afficiandos:
This robot costume is standard with the painted body parts, gloves, underbody suit and a voice box that amplifies the performers voice 6 times the normal human voice. This robot costumes are built like aircraft from 100% durable lightweight composites including fiberglass and vacuum-formed plastics. The secret is that using composites Robot Costumes USA produces robot costumes that only weigh 35lbs which is no more than a hiking backpack. Our robots also have a three stage Dupont automotive paint job with two layers of clear-coat. Our robot costumes can take all kinds of abuse and is able to get wet if it rains. Just wash and wax it like a car.
And check this out –a site dedicated to robot costumes.
Dublin’s excellent Science Gallery is one year old.
Home to wonder-inducing exhibitions and mind-boggling public debates, the Science Gallery has attracted over 120,000 visitors in its first year –exceeding its original target of 50,000.
My personal favorite was the ArtBots Exhibition (video highlights below), a great example of science outreach in a fun environment. (I even brought my bristlebot for the day.)
I also had the pleasure of helping cover last year’s Science Week lecture series, hosted by the Science Gallery, for the Discover Science and Engineering blog. (See links to those entries at the foot of this post.)
They’ve been celebrating over at the Science Gallery blog.
You can expect to hear a lot more from the venue over the coming years, as Dublin prepares to become European City of Science in 2012.
So what’s showing there now? Well, from what I hear LIGHTWAVE –an exhibition “exploring our relationship with light– which runs until 20 February (Tuesday to Sunday from 4pm to 9pm: free of charge) is the best exhibition yet. I haven’t been yet, but hope to see it this weekend –can’t wait!
What Our Planet Needs: Love and Heretics
Lights, Camera, Dynamite!
Welcome Our New Robot Overlords… Ourselves!
Space Tourists Are Go (Well, almost)
Patrick Collison: Coder For Change
And while I’m at it, a couple more posts:
An Eye For Detail (a profile of UCD’s Suzi Jarvis)
Inside The Nanoworld (a nifty nanoscale image gallery)