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Will You Welcome A Jibo Into Your Home?

In my last post, I mentioned Dr. Cynthia Breazeal’s founding of her new company as an example of the emergence of  robots designed to the social framework we apply as we interact in the world. This week, she unveiled Jibo, a personal robot for your home. It is no secret that we tend to respond to social stimuli even when generated from technology. While there has some debate in the robotics community about how far you can take this before you fall into the so-called “uncanny valley”, where too much anthropomorphic design may make a robot seem creepy, there is little doubt that it is almost unavoidable to create a some social context with robots. I’ve previously cited classic study by Drs. Heidel and Simmel in 1944. Subjects asked to describe animation of moving geometric shapes typically used social terms to described the interaction even though no such context was provided before….

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The Rise of Emotional Robots

There seems to be an ever increasing number of new stories about emergence of robots, but I wanted to single out a number of recent announcements that I found quite interesting.  The first is the announcement of Google’s latest strategy with regards to self-driving cars. It’s certainly not new that Google has been investing in self-driving cars. They have been traveling the streets of San Francisco and the freeways of the Bay Area for some time now. However, the latest information reveals that Google is applying what they have learned from retrofitting conventional cars with sensors and computers to these own custom vehicles. Unlike their predecessors, the new Google cars are smaller and designed to only travel about 25 miles per hour. Also, unlike their more conventional cousins, they have no explicit controls (i.e. no steering wheel), other than an emergency stop button. They have also been designed to have soft exteriors, likely not so much…

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These aren’t the droids you’re looking for

I recently spoke at InnoRobo/RoboLift, a European robotics conference, held in the beautiful city of Lyon, France. Since my last trip to a European robotics conference was about 3 years ago, I was looking forward to catching up on how robotics was developing in this part of the world. One of the first things I noted was that the conference organizers had invited speakers from the design and user research community including Cynthia Breazeal, professor from MIT’s Media Lab. I particularly like to hear about Cynthia’s research because I share her philosophy that robot interaction needs to be designed as a social experience. Her work with Kismet, Leonardo, Nexi, and other robots really stand out as great examples of where the design of personal robots needs to go. This was refreshing, because many robotics conferences I have attended (except for the annual HRI conference) typically focus on optimistic market projections or demonstrations of…

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