Pepper, a new humanoid robot introduced earlier this month in Japan, may herald the beginning of a new era in personal robotics. Unlike its ancestors, such as Mitsubishi’s Wakamaru and Sony’s QRIO, who had to join the halls of robot extinction, Pepper, developed jointly by the French robotics company Aldebaran and the Japanese telecom giant SoftBank, is here to stay.
Each year brings us closer to the day when robotic companions will become an integral part of our homes, schools, hospitals and offices. However, for robots to be truly accepted in our personal space, their social interactions with us must acquire the kind of fluency and coordination that humans expect from each other. This is one of the challenges addressed by Guy Hoffman, the co-director of the Media Innovation Lab at IDC Herzilya in Israel and possibly one of the most original thinkers in robotics today.
We featured a previous post on one of the most emotionally literate robots in the world Nao, who was developed by Aldebaran Robotics and is currently being used by the ALIZ-E project scheduled to end this year. This cute robot has been tested at aged care facilities and proved helpful for such tasks as monitoring and reducing people’s anxiety levels by engaging with them emotionally.
Now, another European project is testing Nao in a slightly different role – that of a tutor. Needless to say, EMOTE, a three-year research project launched in 2012, also picked up Nao for his ability to empathise.