AI News, Emotional robot lets you feel how it's 'feeling'

Emotional robot lets you feel how it's 'feeling'

Assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Guy Hoffman, who has given a TEDx talk on 'Robots with 'soul'' said the inspiration for designing a robot that gives off nonverbal cues through its outer skin comes from the animal world, based on the idea that robots shouldn't be thought of in human terms.

Future challenges include scaling the technology to fit into a self-contained robot -- whatever shape that robot takes -- and making the technology more responsive to the robot's immediate emotional changes.

'At the moment, most social robots express [their] internal state only by using facial expressions and gestures,' the paper concludes.

'We believe that the integration of a texture-changing skin, combining both haptic [feel] and visual modalities, can thus significantly enhance the expressive spectrum of robots for social interaction.'

New Skin Gives Robots Ability to Display Emotions

team from Cornell University has developed a prototype robot that is able to express emotions through changes in its outer surface with a skin that covers a grid of texture units whose shapes change based on how the robot feels.

Some examples of how skin texture expresses emotions including human goosebumps, cats’ neck fur raising, dogs’ back hair, the needles of a porcupine, spiking of a blowfish and a bird’s ruffled feathers.

studied unequally, with a heavy focus on kinesics, facial expression, gaze, locomotion, and vocalics.” While the researchers have yet to decide on a future application for the emotional robot, Hoffman said proving they can build one is an admirable first step.

“We believe that the integration of a texture-changing skin, combining both haptic [feel] and visual modalities, can thus significantly enhance the expressive spectrum of robots for social interaction.” Their work is detailed in a paper, “Soft Skin Texture Modulation for Social Robots,” presented at the International Conference on Soft Robotics in Livorno, Italy.

Feel What This Robot Feels Through Tactile Expressions

We humans think we’re pretty clever with all of the different ways that we have of communicating with each other.

It seems like plenty of modes of communication, but we’re missing out on a few that are routine for animals, including texture: Animals can express emotional states through skin changes, like when cats cause their hair to stand up, or when a blowfish inflates itself and gets all pokey.

We can’t make textural expressions like these (although it does sometimes happen to us involuntarily), but we can often do a reasonable job of interpreting them when we see them: Anything that grows spikes, for example, probably prefers not to be touched.

The robot uses a pneumatically powered elastomer skin that can be dynamically textured with either goosebumps or spikes, which should help it communicate more effectively, especially if what it’s trying to communicate is, “Don’t touch me!”

Adding air causes the texture units to inflate, popping up above the surface of the texture module to form shapes that can be both seen and felt.

The researchers equipped their prototype robot with two different kinds of texture units: Goosebumps, which form rounded domes when inflated, and spikes, which include rigid little pokey bits.

That’s part of the reason why the texture modules are mounted on each side of a little screen with an expressive face in this social robot prototype, to help the researchers figure out how well textures can be mapped onto emotions, with and without supplementary emotional expression from the robot.

Compared to the more traditional nonverbal channels there has also been much less research mapping skin texture changes to emotions, whereas facial expression and body movements have a rich history of emotion mapping, from the arts to the biological and social sciences.

This includes fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals, which indicates that it is an even more basic expression of emotion than facial expressions (arguably mostly used by mammals) and gestures.

We hope that the tactile and more “evolutionarily basic” nature of texture change could first of all enhance expressing the effectiveness of robot’s emotion expression, perhaps by generating subconscious or unconscious interactions.

For example, if we see a sad face on a robot, we may be able to read the robot’s state, but that sadness may have less of an emotional effect on us when compared to the sensation of sharp spikes under our palms.

Emotional Robot

A prototype of a robot was created by Cornell University research scientists that is capable of expressing “emotions”

lecture titled "Robots with 'soul'", by assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Guy Hoffman, explains that a robot capable of communicating nonverbal cues through its outer covering (skin) was inspired by animals which supports the notion that robots should not be thought of in human terms.

These shapes actuation units are built into texture modules and integrated with fluidic chambers connecting bumps of the same type.

Furthermore, the research team investigated two different actuation control systems that include features capable of minimizing size and noise level.

"We believe that the integration of a texture-changing skin, combining both haptic [feel] and visual modalities, can thus significantly enhance the expressive spectrum of robots for social interaction."

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