Friday, June 8, 2007

Eye-chan the Robot

I got to meet a ROBOT today!!! It was AWESOME!

There is a partnership between Waseda and Sant'Anna (in Italy) called "Robocasa". They specialize in "humanoid & personal robotics" and, as I understand it, are on the forefront of such research. They are working on robots that will hopefully become "partners" to play and enertain humans. They are also developing robotics for caring for the elderly and disabled.

This robot is called "Eye Chan" (at first I thought Ai-chan, a popular Japanese name); "eye" in English for the prominent eye/cameras it has, and "chan" is a cutesy alternative to the polite "san".

LEFT: this slide shows the jacket-apparatus that the "user" wears while communicating with the robot. The jacket measures sweat, temperature, heartbeat, breathing rate, and movement to discern the psychological and physiological states of the user, so the robot can react appropriately. Some of these signs could also be used for the elderly and disabled in care facilities, with robots that can instantly respond to emergencies.

I went to the lab with an international group on campus and got to talk to the researchers and engineers (Italian and Japanese) about their activities.

A "humanoid" robot, it can react to smells (i.e. ammonia, alcohol and something else I forgot) and colors, and has its own circadian rhythm (which really impressed me!). Eye-chan also has a sort of lungs, which are not for breathing but rather to suck in air for it to "smell" and for emotional expression (i.e. breathing faster when angry, or sighing).

"She" even has EYELASHES and blinks periodically. I asked why it blinks- apparently people find something that doesn't blink as scary, and the eyelids make it seem more human/personable and friendly.

These next pictures show Eye-chan making faces...

The robot can also track items- first with the eyes and then moving the head- just like a person does! The whole thing is pretty darn realistic!!

BELOW: going to sleep!

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