Humanoid robots being taught to respond to touch

Posted on 20 Sep 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Researchers at the University Paris-Saclay are teaching robots how to show personality and emotion through touch and other senses.

Humanoid Robots
The research could lead to robots having the potential to become carers for our ageing population, an act previously only thought possible in science-fiction.

The team’s research aims to develop humanoid robots sensitive to tactile stimulation. First results reportedly show that a robot is capable of inferring someone’s gender and personality in 75% of cases simply by shaking hands.

Professor Adriana Tapus, of ENSTA ParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, explained: “Giving robots a personality is the only way our relationship with artificial intelligence will survive. If we can simulate a human-like emotional response from a robot we can ensure a two-way relationship, benefiting the most vulnerable and isolated members of our society.

“Our research will help the next generation of social robots to be polite, empathetic, and maybe have their own sense of humour.”

In addition to an anthropomorphic appearance, robots must also develop social interaction strategies to be better integrated in human centred environments.

The ENSTA research team claim to have developed robots to elicit different emotions and dominance depending on the situation and context. This includes, for example, adapting the arm stiffness and amplitude in a hand shaking interaction.

Professor Tapus’ research group at ENSTA have also studied emotion recognition. This was mainly part of a project designed for people suffering with Autistic Syndrome Disorder (ASD).

Individuals suffering ASD often have difficulty in recognising and understanding social stimuli. However, past research shows they have affinity in interacting with robots.

As such, the research group – working in collaboration with three centres working with individuals with ASD – investigated the recognition of emotions by those suffering ASD with various embodiments, from real humans to robots and human avatars.

These potential new therapies could help autism sufferers become more social. Additionally, it also means that robots have the potential to become carers for our ageing population, work with humans to complete complex tasks and intervene in situations where human contact is welcome.

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