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Imprinting robots bond with study coordinator Dr. Lola Canamero.
Robots have feelings, too -- or at least they will -- pending the completion of a pan-European research project being led by a group of British scientists

The Feelix Growing project aims to design and build a series of robots that can interact with humans on an emotional level, and actually adapt their behavior in response to emotional cues from their human counterparts.

The official goal of the project is to conduct "interdisciplinary investigation of socially situated development ... as a key paradigm towards achieving robots that interact with humans in their everyday environments in a rich, flexible, autonomous, and user-centered way." To achieve this, the 2.3 million-Euro effort has assembled more than two dozen roboticists, developmental psychologists and neuroscientists from six nations.

The robots used in the project are simple designs, including some "off-the-shelf" models. The complexity lies in the software, which will construct artificial neural networks to pick up on human emotions exhibited via facial expressions, voice intonation, gestures and other behaviors.

The leader of the European Commission-funded project, Dr. Lola Canamero is a senior lecturer in the School of Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire, England. She also serves as the principal investigator and coordinator of the university's Adaptive Systems Research Group, which focuses on researching socially intelligent agents, emotion modeling, developmental robotics, human-robot and human-computer interaction, embodied artificial intelligence and robotics, sensor evolution and artificial life.

In a recent interview with BBC, Canamero said the robots will be designed to detect basic human emotional states such as  anger, happiness, and loneliness. Once the states are detected, the robots will be programmed to perform a support role, by seeking to soothe an angry human, or cheer up a lonely or depressed one.

One of the first fruits of the Feelix Growing effort has been the production of a robot capable of "imprinting" behavior. The behavior is similar to the way many baby animals develop an instinctual attachment to the first adult they see at the time of birth, usually the mother. The imprinting robot prototype learns to recognize a particular human and follow that individual around, gradually adapting to the human's actions and emotional state, then interacting accordingly, Canamero said.

At the conclusion of the project, the scientists intend to build two robots that will combine aspects of the research being conducted at each of the eight partner sites scattered around Europe.



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RE: Little scenario
By supaflydaddyc on 2/27/2007 12:41:54 PM , Rating: 2
Axbattler,

I don't know when robots will reach the level of functionality that you speak of, but when they do, you're dead-on that there will be activists groups clamoring for robots' rights.

It gives me an uneasy feeling.

I'm only in my early 20's but who knows what the world will be like when I'm in my 60's. Florida could begin to be submerged under the ocean due to global warming (maybe), robots could roam the Earth, maybe the United States and other Western nations successfully switch over to some form of fuel cell for which we can produce hydrogen cleanly (crosses fingers), but the rest of the developing world will still be reliant on oil and fossil fuels, and the countries of OPEC will be at war with one another.

Let's face it, 40 years is a long time, anything can happen. Heck, five years is a long time. Can you say that you are exactly where you thought you'd at this point in your life five years ago?


"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton











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