Various enterprises and personal interests, such as Man-Machine Interaction (MMI), gesture studies, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Category: Robots Page 1 of 5

Human-Robot Interaction, Social Robotics

Reality check for Mule-like Robots

In the news today: Marine Corps Shelves Futuristic Robo-Mule Due to Noise Concerns.

I always love it when robots and robotic solutions are actually evaluated in a reality check with the people who are supposed to use it in the future in a realistic scenario. Often, these people and these scenario’s have not really been involved in the development process.

In this case it turns out that the Robo-Mule was too loud and suffered from other real-world problems like dependability and subtlety. So, the military has decided to shelve the programme until further notice, meaning that the company developing the robot basically also stops the programme.

For other sectors, like healthcare, these kinds of reality checks are also important. Because, it the military finds the system unsuitable for real-world application then chances are that other sectors will also find fault with it. A similar case was the exo-skeleton. After initial pioneering work by the military it was also thought applicable in healthcare. But, after the military lost interest, the entire solution lost a lot of momentum.

Some images of the Robo-Mule.

Dutch News / Nederlandse vertaling

Item over Zora en andere robots in de zorg bij CampusTV Utrecht

Naar aanleiding van een grote proef met de Zora robot (eigenlijk NAO met wat extra programmering door een Belgisch bedrijfje) was er een item op CampusTV van de Hogeschool Utrecht over robots in de zorg.

Ik was uitgenodigd als expert om commentaar te geven over robots in de zorg.

Zie Campustalk 07 Winter 2015-2016 (actie vanaf 3:30). Het verhaal van de verzamel-expert is trouwens ook leuk (aan het eind).

Interesting CHRIS video

An important European robotics project called CHRIS (Cooperative Human Robot Interaction Systems FP7 215805) has received its final review last april. They have also created a very nice video that summarizes their work:

As the video show, the work includes the recognition of speech, gesture (pointing), actions, and objects. All within a context of cooperation and safety. But, I will not try to summarize their work. Just watch the video.

Why the Robonaut Handshake with ISS Captain Burbank is not a Greeting

Last Februari 15, 2012, NASA made a little fuss about Robonaut (or R2) performing ‘the first human-humanoid handshake in space’. You can watch it in the video below.

‘Robonaut Shakes Hands’, uploaded by ReelNASA

I would like to use this occasion to enlighten both humans and humanoids about greetings. Although it is of course nice that cpt. Burbank has some kind words regarding the robot’s firm handshake, a nice bit of programming in itself, the normal phases of a greeting, which is a fairly well documented social interaction pattern, are remarkably absent. A handshake is what is called the ‘close salutation’. These ‘close salutations’ are the final phase of the entire greeting episode, which also includes sighting and announcement, distance salutations, and an approach phase (Kendon, 1990). None of the first three steps were followed by Robonaut and cpt. Burbank, the latter merely waited for Robonaut to try and grab his hand. I think this is important, because greetings are among the best documented social interaction patterns of humans. If we want to create social robots, then programming a proper greeting may be one of the most important, and most manageable things we can strive for.

Some references:
Arendsen, J. (2008). Greeting by gesture, a review. Gesture, 8(3), pp. 386-390, link, pdf
Kendon, A. (1990). A description of some human greetings. Conducting Interaction, pp. 153-207. Cambridge University Press.

Update, here is a nice example of a handshake that includes all of the phases of a greeting. They make eye contact, nod slightly or incline their head, approach each other and shake hands.

Book Review of: Imitation and Social Learning in Robots, Humans and Animals

In 2007 an interesting book was published that I believe is also relevant to gesture researchers:

Imitation and social learning in robots, humans and animals: behavioural, social and communicative dimensions.
Chrystopher L. Nehaniv, Kerstin Dautenhahn (Eds.). Cambridge University Press, 2007 – 479 pagina’s (available online in a limited way, here)

The book is an excellent volume with many interesting chapters, some with contributions by the editors themselves but also by many other authors. Personally, I found the following chapters most interesting (of 21 chapters):

  • 1. Imitation: thoughts about theories (Bird & Heyes)
  • 2. Nine billion correspondence problems (Nehaniv)
  • 7. The question of ‘what to imitate’: inferring goals and intentions from demonstrations (Carpenter & Call)
  • 8. Learning of gestures by imitation in an humanoid robot (Calinon & Billard)
  • 10. Copying strategies by people with autistic spectrum disorder: why only imitation leads to social cognitive development (Williams)
  • 11. A Bayesian model of imitation in infants and robots (Rao et al.)
  • 12. Solving the correspondence problem in robotic imitation across ambodiments: synchrony, perception and culture in artifacts (Alissandrakis et al.)
  • 15. Bullying behaviour, empathy and imitation: an attempted synthesis (Dautenhahn et al.)
  • 16. Multiple motivations for imitation in infancy (Nielsen & Slaughter)
  • 21. Mimicry as deceptive resemblance: beyond the one-trick ponies (Norman & Tregenza)

I’ll probably update this post with more in-depth review remarks later… But at least chapter 21 has connections to earlier posts here regarding animal gestures, such as here.

What is Social Robotics?

Is it possible to give a good definition of social robotics? Is it a field of scientific study or is it only a catch phrase for exciting robot stuff? If it is a field of study, can we identify what belongs to it and what is outside of the field? Should we already set such boundaries or should we wait a while to give maximum growing room to the first seeds being planted by enthusiastic researchers and engineers around the world?

Instead of answering these questions here directly, I want to give you two answers of a different kind.

The first answer is that sometimes things can best be defined by identifying good examples (see explanation of Prototype Theory). If enough people can agree on good examples of social robotics then this defines the phrase ‘Social Robotics’ as a usable concept. This kind of definition plays an important role in the study of language and, given that the word ‘robot’ came from literature rather than science, it appears appropriate to try to define it in this way. Therefore, I collected the following videos that, in my opinion, each deal with one or more aspects of social robotics. They are all good examples of social robotics.

As a second answer, which may be more useful if you need more clarity fast, here is a reference to the call for participation of our recent workshop ‘Robots that Care‘, which contains a description of the field of social robotics.

Keepon Rocks

After watching a bunch of Keepon movies on the tube I gotta say: Keepon Rocks. Great idea, great ‘minimal’ design, great manufacturing, great experience. Here’s a small collection…

See, for more info on the web:
Hizook, robotics news portal
The Thinkers: Robotics developer helps studying autistic children
BotJunkie on Keepon
Q&A with Hideki Kozima – How Keepon was born and what comes next

Vertigine della lista – another beauty

I came across the folowing, wonderful list of things:

Mobility aids: Manual wheelchairs; powered wheelchairs; electric 3- and 4-wheel scooters; attendant pushed wheelchairs; walkers/rollators; canes; stretchers to move patients; turntables; floor lifts; ceiling/fixed lifts; driving equipment to assist physically challenged to drive; vehicles equipped to carry wheelchairs, etc.; and vehicles equipped with baths.

Bed-related products: Beds, mattresses, pressure sore prevention products, side tables, and care related sheets.

Bathing products: Bathtubs, bath chairs, anti-slip products, bath boards and bathing lifts.

Toilet related and diapers: Portable toilets, toilets/toilet seats, deodorizers, germicides and diapers.

Aids for Daily Living: Chairs, positioning and standup aids, tables, furniture, eating utensils, table ware, kitchens, cooking aids, washbasins, clothing, shoes, clothes changing aids and care related products.

Communication Equipment: Hearing aids; emergency alarm and warning systems; word processors and computer systems for the disabled; Braille printers; aids to assist in data entry and operating OA equipment; software for the physically challenged; letter enlargement equipment; special telephones, faxes and portable talking aids; sight related systems; and other communication equipment.

Equipment for the Home & Construction: Slopes, handrails, elevators, ramps, stair climbers and other such equipment.

Rehabilitation Equipment & Prevention Products against nursing-care: Rehabilitation equipment for walking; training materials, devices and equipment for rehabilitation. Body function training equipment, muscular strength training machines, and oral care related products.

Artificial Limbs & Orthopedic products

Truly, another enchanting list worthy of inclusion in Umberto Eco’s marvellous collection of ‘lists’ in his 2009 book called ‘Vertigine della lista’ or ‘De betovering van lijsten’ (a book I got from my professor after receiving my PhD).

But, what is it a list of? I will leave it to your imagination 🙂

Paro: Evidence for positive effects

When will the positive effects of Paro, the robot baby harp seal that is reported to be quite useful in the nursing of the elderly, be considered ‘proven by evidence’ by the Dutch government and/or healthcare policymakers? Interesting question, I think.

I am told that, to some extent, the organizations providing health insurance (such as CZ, Achmea, OHRA, etc.) decide on the issue. Then there is also some kind of ‘Reviewing Committee’ that has a say in it. Still a bit unclear to me, though. Perhaps the ‘Free Market’ has a hand in it as well.

“So,” one might ask, “what exactly are the positive effects of Paro?” And, if one wishes to take it one step further: “How big is the benefit and what does it cost?”. Well, I listened very carefully to the presentation given by Takanori Shibata, the ‘father’ of Paro, at the ‘Robots that Care’ workshop that I co-organized. He had compiled a lot of results, roughly from the last ten years or so, both in the form of statistical data and of case description. 

During Shibata’s talk, I assembled the following list of positive effects and how they were measured:

  • With elderly (and medium aged): Less depression, measured with GDS scores.
  • With elderly: More ‘cheerfulness’, measured by self report using ‘face scales’.
  • With elderly: Decrease of ‘stress’, measured by urinary test and blood test (wit relation to immune system). And elsewhere reported: improvement of ‘mood’ and ‘vigor’.
  • In Alzheimer patients: better EEG results (more stable), possibly caused by higher activation of ‘good’ remaining portion of the brain.
  • More (desirable) communication, between elderly patients, or between patient and nurse.

Paro can also have a positive effect on nurses of the elderly:

  • Decreasing the likelihood of burn-outs, by making elderly care patients easier to work with (in various ways). (unknown measures)
  • Can enhance and/or complement the skills of the nurses, leading to improved job satisfaction. (unknown measures)

There are, however, also quite a few publications by Shibata and others about the results with Paro (here).

Some interesting links to Dutch developments:
Wat kost meer? Een kat of een Paro?
Nederlandse verzorgingstehuizen experimenteren met robotzeehond Paro, geliefd onder demente ouderen
Buddy van oma is een robot

And here is a video that is a fairly good compilation of how Paro achieves it’s positive effects:

One CareBot ™ One Family

At my new workplace, TNO, we had a modest celebration today: Two robot projects in which we will be cooperating have been approved by the EC (three cheers for the authors of the proposals RL and MN!). One of those is concerned with robotics in healthcare, which brings me to the next video:

From Gecko Systems (check out more movies) comes this would-be personal robot nurse. The people in this movie appear slightly naïve in their childish enthusiasm but it’s nevertheless good to have such glimpses of the future. Who knows, perhaps you and I will be nursed by such machines? A thought I find somewhat disturbing, I must confess.

One family’s experience with a robot companion for their Mother.

Also on Robots-Dreams
Gecko about Consumer Familycare
Gecko about Professional Healthcare

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