What You Say Is What You Did

A new European project hopes to make robots more trustworthy


Year by year, robots become better and better at negotiating each time more complex social interactions with humans. However, much as their social intelligence has improved, these interactions still suffer from a lack of transparency. In other words, unlike humans, robots are not capable of understanding and explaining their actions in intentional terms, which prevents them from having more effective communication with humans. To the joy of robots and humans alike, this challenge is now addressed by the What You Say Is What You Did (WYSIWYD) project, launched earlier this year.

The project, coordinated by the SPECS lab at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, will develop an autobiographical memory that can store data streams obtained by the robot in the form of a consistent personal narrative of the interaction history. Furthermore, the researchers intend to devise a mechanism of conversion of this memory data into meaningful linguistic structures that can be subsequently expressed in speech and communicative actions through a specific channel dubbed WYSIWYD Robotese, thus improving mutual understanding between robots and humans.

WYSIWYD is an interdisciplinary effort that will draw from the fields of robotics, cognitive science, psychology and computational neuroscience. The project largely builds on the previous success of the efAA project, also coordinated by SPECS. WYSIWYD is scheduled to run for 3 years, and hopefully will bring about a qualitative change in human robot interaction and cooperation as well as unlock new application areas in robotics.

The main research platform for the project is everybody’s favourite iCub robot, developed by the Italian Institute of Technology in Milan, which is also one of the universities participating in the collaboration. iCub will be used in combination with another amazing piece of technology Reactable, an interactive table interface.

iCub has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Watch the video below to see how the robot and its capabilities evolved throughout a decade.

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