Nao: the robot that expresses and detects emotions
The world’s first robot to be able to display and detect emotions has been unveiled by European scientists.
Daily Telegraph, 09 Aug 2010
The humanoid machine, called Nao, hunches its shoulders when it feels sad and raises its arms for a hug when it feels happy.
It has been designed to mimic the emotional skills of a one-year-old child and is capable of forming bonds with people who treat it with kindness.
Nao is able to detect human emotions through a series of non-verbal “clues”, such as body-language and facial expressions, and becomes more adept at reading a person’s mood through prolonged interaction.
It uses video cameras to detect how close a person comes and sensors to work out how tactile they are.
The wiring of the robot's “brain”, designed to mirror the neural network of the human mind, allows it to remember its interactions with different people and memorise their faces.
This understanding, along with a set of basic rules about what is “good” and “bad” for it, allow the robot to indicate whether it is “sad” or “happy”.
The actions used to display each emotion are preprogrammed but Nao decides by itself which feeling to display, and when.
"We're modelling the first years of life," said Lola Cañamero, a computer scientist at the University of Hertfordshire who led the project to create Nao's emotions.
"We are working on non-verbal cues and the emotions are revealed through physical postures, gestures and movements of the body rather than facial or verbal expression."
Cañamero believes that robots will act as human companions in future.
"Those responses make a huge difference for people to be able to interact naturally with a robot," she said.
“If people can behave naturally around their robot companions, robots will be better-accepted as they become more common in our lives."
Nao was developed as part of a project called Feelix Growing, funded by the European commission.
Though some scientists believe that robots could be used to help around the house, or to care for the elderly, in the future, others have warned that the humanoids could spin out of control and attack their owners by accident.