The way to make a social home robot seems to be pretty standardized: basically, you cram a tablet computer into a cute robot body with some degrees of freedom and do your best to make sure that your voice recognition and conversation algorithms are as good of an experience as you possibly can, using a screen to help you out when necessary. This is fine, if you can get it to work well, but there's a concern that it's just going to turn into an experience that's essentially talking to a gussied-up version of your phone. A group of researchers including Michal Luria, Guy Hoffman, Benny Megidish, Oren Zuckerman, Roberto Aimi, and Sung Park from IDC Herzliya, Cornell, and SK Telecom have developed a prototype social robot called Vyo. Vyo is "a personal assistant serving as a centralized interface for smart home devices." Nothing new there, but what sets Vyo apart is how you interact with it: it combines non-anthropomorphic design with anthropomorphic expressiveness and a tactile object-based control system into a social robot that's totally, adorably different.
As excited as we are about the forthcoming generation of social home robots (including Jibo, Kuri, and many others), it's hard to ignore the fact that most of them look somewhat similar. They tend to feature lots of shiny white and black plasticky roundness. That's for admittedly very good reasons, but it comes at the cost of both uniqueness and visual and tactile personality. Guy Hoffman, who is well known for the fascinating creativity of his robot designs, has been working on a completely new kind of social robot in a collaboration between his lab at Cornell and Google ZOO's creative technology team in APAC. The robot is called Blossom, and we'd describe it for you, except that it's designed to be handmade out of warm natural materials like wool and wood so that every single one is a little bit different.
Based on the development of several different HRI scenarios using different robots, we have been establishing the SERA ecosystem. SERA is composed of both a model and tools for integrating an AI agent with a robotic embodiment, in human-robot interaction scenarios. We present the model, and several of the reusable tools that were developed, namely Thalamus, Skene and Nutty Tracks. Finally we exemplify how such tools and model have been used and integrated in five different HRI scenarios using the NAO, Keepon and EMYS robots.
Robots in general, and social robots in particular, tend to be very focused on functionality. When we see one, we want to know what it does, how well it does it, and whether it does those things better or worse than other robots or systems. The necessity for robots to be "useful" drives their design, but what happens when you instead design a robot that only has to do one very simple thing? The Greeting Machine is an abstract robot developed at the Media Innovation Lab (miLAB) at the IDC Herzliya, in Israel, with collaborators from Cornell University. It was conceptualized to greet people with a gesture, and do nothing else--a challenge that's more complicated than it sounds.
This paper presents the first steps in a series of ongoing user evaluations of intelligent environments for supporting elderly users at home. We specifically focus on a comparison of elderly perceptions of social assistive domestic robots between Italian and Swedish user groups. The evaluation was carried out in Rome, Italy and Örebro, Sweden, including surrounding towns. The results, obtained through a videobased methodology, highlight the variety in level of appreciation of domestic robots for elderly care as it relates to a number of aspects of culture which are not necessarily trivial to identify. Our results suggest some specific factors as important for interpreting the difference in perception, e.g., the user's acquaintance with ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and the social policies implemented in the two countries. Also, the results show interesting commonalities, such as the general agreement among Swedish and Italian user groups on the physical aspect of the robot.