Print 18 comment(s) - last by oTAL.. on Mar 1 at 9:28 AM

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 UserDoesNotExist on 2/27/2007 5:38:31 PM , Rating: 2
I must point out one thing, namely that I believe your comparision of e-bots and pets is mistaken. The difference is that I don't doubt whether a dog or cat has a similiar emotional capacity as I do, and I don't think I'm alone of this matter. In case you're wondering why I phrased that so awkwardly, it's because I know that there's some philosophy major lurking out there just waiting to prove how smart he is to a bunch of strangers online by posting some smart ass comment about the nature of existance.

As an aside, the more time I spend training my puppy, the more convinced I am of his sentience as well as mine. No matter what the nature shows say about how the dog is "honing his hunting instinct as a pup" or "developing a submissive bond with his pack master", I know he's just playing with me and likes to have me around. To those who say that he's just a biological machine that has been programmed to the point where he appears to be self-aware, well, I'll be the first to admit that I have no really good, surefire rebuttal. That doesn't automatically make me wrong, especially when you consider that one who propagates such an arguement has no good, surefire rebuttal against the "ghost in the machine" arguement.

With a robot, I just don't have that same personal assurance as to the emotional capacity, and once again I don't think I'm alone on in this matter. This doesn't require that I be truly self-aware, just that I think myself to be self-aware and that I hold views of the sentience of other objects in the universe.

You know what? Nevermind the last three paragraphs. Dogs sentient. Me sentient. Robot not sentient. Me like dogs. Me not like robot. HULK SMASH!

RE: Little scenario
By oTAL on 3/1/2007 9:28:12 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree. From someone who has worked with Aibo's I can tell you that, as idiotic as it may sound, one can easily find himself attached to a stupid machine like that.
The major impediment to further attachment is that it is just too stupid. It's like the normal attachment people have to fish (I know some people get very attached to their fish, but you know what I mean... the normal "hey... I care about them...").
People with knowledge on biologically inspired AI have built models around emotions. Emotions and feelings evolved in nature as a tool to give positive and negative feedback on the learning process. This same tool is useful when used in AI models allowing the emergence of a large variety of behaviors. Feelings are a large amount of variables that affect the subject's current "emotional state". That can be copied and adapted to artificial models... Right now, the largest difference between a machine's software and an animals brain is that the machine's software is highly serialized and the animal's brain is highly parallelized. This higher parallelism allows for a much larger amount of possible states and behaviors, and a greater unpredictability. Still, it can be simulated and is, step by step, being adapted.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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