An aspiring David, EU project strives to create learning, feeling and communicating robots.

One of the things still separating our future robotic companion reality with the sci-fi films such as “AI”, “I, Robot”, and “Cherry 2000” is the inability to create a robot that displays human-like emotion, reasoning, and learning abilities. Much can be done with various types of learning programs and programmed responses, but will mankind ever create a true self-evolving robot?

In any case, work with robots like Honda's ASIMO continues, bringing more advances to the science of robotics. The military is also ceaseless in its hopes to cut down on as much human interaction on the battlefront as possible. Still, humans control robotic wartime creations like the Predator (Reaper) drone and Talon S.W.O.R.D.S. robot. They day may be approaching when we see Johnny 5 or Star Wars-style droids warring in our place, but robotics and artificial intelligence still have a long way to go.

On a more friendly note, a consortium of European universities and robotics companies, under the FEELIX GROWING project led by Dr. Lola Cañamero, are working to develop robots capable of emotional growth and attachment. The purpose of FEELIX GROWING (an acronym for Feel, Interact, eXpress: a Global approach to development with Interdisciplinary Grounding) is to design robots that learn, react, express, and bond with humans in the same way human children do.

The new robots can express various emotions -- from fear to happiness and pride to anger -- depending on their interactions with particular humans, or in response to the tasks given to them. Should a chosen human companion fail to react in an acceptable way to a robot's fear or happiness, for example, the robot will become visibly agitated, much in the same way a child trying to get a parent's attention will.

Another project FEELIX GROWING is expanding into is called ALIZ-E. The newer program focuses on creating robots to be companions and caretakers for diabetic children, and will focus on linguistic and non-linguistic interactions. The project aims to provide robots that can learn, communicate, and provide social and health care for individual patients. The goal of the project is for the robots to learn how to interact and handle their patient's emotional and physical needs, which may be completely different from another patient's.

While it can be argued that these actions are nothing more than programmed responses, it is hard to disagree that human children learn in a very similar manner how to interact with adults and other children. And just as children grow to learn responsibility and morality, so too may robotic AIs, though the path seems long and daunting.

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