Monthly Archives: February 2012

Care-O-Bot 3

These robots appear to have been produced with research from Prof Kerstin Dautehahn and her team at The Adaptive Systems Research Group (University of Herts) in collaboration with Fraunhofer IPA. To their credit they seem to be heading towards a commercially available open source product rather than hiding behind the usual robotics idiom of  ‘new research platform – apply here’ – (on further reading this is debatable!). I kind of like Care-O-Bot 3’s ‘technomorphic’ shape, despite its size but they’re clearly avoiding the humanoid issues and interaction seems pretty good. Some of the elderly adults in the video also appeared to like it so it definitely looks good on more than a few critical areas of HRI and robotic innovation.

I particularly like these robots roles as care assistants rather than care worker replacements so somewhat ethically sound too. It is however, not particularly companionable and clearly not designed as such, which conveniently stimulates a discussion regarding the shaping of robots for differing roles. A socially equipped, anti-anthropomorphic service robot like Care-O-Bot 3 looks functional so it does functional tasks (but not upstairs?), a social companion robot like Paro elicits emotional/haptic responses creating emotional attachments. So are there domestic spaces for both, certainly looks like it, particularly if they can communicate simultaneously with us and each other?

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Fujitsu Teddy Bear Robot

At last an attempt to make a decent companion robot. Cute as he is though,  he doesn’t seem to actually do very much. He’s certainly not mobile and interaction is sadly lacking despite claims that he has the ability to recognise human emotion. I still get the feeling that these large corporations haven’t spent enough money on asking what people actually want from a robot, or why they might actually buy one, how they would use it etc. Ivory tower robotics rather than Interaction Design. I don’t understand why lessons haven’t been taken ‘on board’ from the slow computer uptake of seniors, if they didn’t make any sense to them or had any meaningful use, why would they bother tackling the steep technological learning curve?

The Paro model is particularly compelling but still suffers from the stigma of robot toy, as does this Bear but personal preferences combined with utility (for me) will become the so called ‘killer app’ in commercial robotics… the concept of the bespoke robot is getting nearer though.

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UAS – Unmanned Aircraft Systems (European Legislation)

The European UAS legislation group are meeting on the 9.2.12 to discuss and quite probably enshrine laws to regulate the commercial and private use of flying robots (drones etc). As these robots become more affordable, sophisticated and available for private ownership (not withstanding commercial/authority use) legislation has become inevitable. The real interest here though is; could this legislation become the forerunner for legislation & regulation of social robots. Could it influence or even determine the way we accept robots into European airspace as well as society in general, whether flying, on wheels, tracks or even walking within our social, domestic, health and workplace spaces. For instance, could my telepresence mobile home robot go out and check on my car across the road or even perhaps go to my local shop for some milk causing a fatal accident? With Wifi and telepresence enabled navigation this is possible right now!

So how do we legislate against a robotic assault,  thief or spy when the defence offered is “somebody else hacked into my robot” or “it was an unforeseeable  technical glitch” let alone “no civilians were killed in this CIA drone attack”

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